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Page last updated on 2019 July 20

This page was created in 2009 as an outgrowth of the section entitled "Books Read or Heard" in my personal page. The rapid expansion of the list of books warranted devoting a separate page to it. Given that the book introductions and reviews constituted a form of personal blog, I decided to title this page "Blog & Books," to also allow discussion of interesting topics unrelated to books from time to time. Lately, non-book items (such as political news, tech news, puzzles, oddities, trivia, humor, art, and music) have formed the vast majority of the entries.

Entries in each section appear in reverse chronological order.

Blog entries for 2019
Blog entries for 2018
Blog entries for 2017
Blog entries for 2016
Archived blogs for 2015
Archived blogs for 2014
Archived blogs for 2012-13
Archived blogs up to 2011

Blog Entries for 2019

2019/07/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: Poster Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: NYT front page Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: Crew Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: American flag Cartoon: Women who support Trump Close the camps: Holding people in concentration camps is un-American! (1) Images of the day: [Top row & bottom left] Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: On July 20, 1969, 4:17 PM PDT, Apollo 11's Landing Module touched down on the surface of the Moon, allowing humans to step on the surface of a celestial boday for the first time. [Bottom center] Unlike the token number of African Americans in his camp, Trump actually does have a sizable group of women supporters, which is truly mind boggling. [Bottom right] Close the camps: Holding people in concentration camps is un-American!
(2) More items will be added later to today's blog entry.

2019/07/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Michelle Obama tops the list of most-admired woman in the world Map showing recent incidents in and around Strait of Hormuz Melania Trump and her 'Be Best' program/cause Cartoon by Michael de Adder, comparing McCain and Trump Wondrous patterns of nature: Cacti in Mexico, posted by Orgullo Wixarika Cartoon for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing: Louis/Neil/Lance Armstrong (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Michelle Obama tops the list of most-admired woman in the world, according to the latest annual YouGov.com poll. [Top center] Conflicts around Strait of Hormuz: An Iranian drone allegedly downed by the US through electronic jamming and two British cargo ships seized by Iran confound an already tense situation. [Top right] All these women with foreign-sounding names, who try to tell us how to behave: Let's send them home! [Bottom left] Cartoon by Michael de Adder. [Bottem center] Wondrous patterns of nature: Cacti in Mexico, posted by Orgullo Wixarika. [Bottom right] Cartoon for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
(2) Trump admits on camera to kissing a married TV host, while her husband had his back turned: Not that such revelations would cost him any support, including among evangelical Christians and the so-called "values voters." He is a despicable person, but so are the women like this host who have enabled him for decades!
(3) Trump and his ilk, to Americans: If you don't like your government, you should leave!
To asylum seekers: If you don't like your government, you should stay and fix it!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mastaneh, singing in this video, has the great Iranian singer Marzieh as her maternal grandmother.
- Persian Music: The warm voice of Fatemeh Mehlaban. [2-minute video]
- Modern Persian dance: This little girl kicks up a storm! [3-minute video]
- A vary talented chicken, indeed! [1-minute video]
- Humor: Remember never to swallow your bubblegum! [Photo]
- The Internet is abuzz with so-called "iPad magic tricks," but this one is particularly impressive.
(5) Women scholars often not given due credit: Professor Sarah Milov gave an interview to a male journalist. When the article was published, she found that her ideas were used widely, without any mention of her name or even a single link to her contributions to the field.

2019/07/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian calligraphy: Hafez poetry rendered with a ball-point pen by Ali Farahani Four portraits of me from years past, collected from recent Facebook memories Poster: Iran's Municipality of Northern Savad-Kooh bans colorful clothing for women (1) Images of the day: [Left] Persian calligraphy: Hafez poetry rendered with a ball-point pen by Ali Farahani. [Center] Four portraits of me from years past, collected from Facebook memories. [Right] Meme of the day: Iran's Municipality of Northern Savad-Kooh bans colorful clothing for women, even when visiting their brothers!
(2) Just another hypocrite: Today, I watched a video in which Paul Ryan praises Trump's "exquisite leadership"! Ryan is now trying to rewrite history by claiming that he supported Trump in order to have some influence on his crazy decisions. Too late, Mr. Ryan. The damage you did to our country may be irreversible!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Man kills 33 by setting fire to an anime studio in Japan, while shouting "You die!"
- This huge chart lists every attempt to go to the moon by the US, the Soviet Union, and other countries.
- Preparing cold yogurt soup ("aabdoogh-Khiaar"). [Video]
- The best place to be an AI entrepreneur is communist China! [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
- Serving 3-course meals to the poor: The celebrity chef who is giving back. [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
(4) Yesterday's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Dmitri Strukov (Professor, UCSB, and Distinguished Lecturer, IEEE Nanotechnology Council) spoke at Goleta Valley Public Library under the title "Alternative Computing with Memristors." Dr. Strukov is one of the pioneers of memristive (resistive switching) technology and its applications. Memristors offer two key properties that are essential to brain-inspired or neuromorphic computing: High device density and nonvolatile storage. Dr. Strukov's recent focus has been on metal-oxide memristors, whose 3D version resolves Feynman grand challenge of implementing an 8-bit adder in 50-nm cube. Dr. Strukov covered the application of memristors to neuromorphic and alternative-style computing. He also planned to discuss work on memristor-based security primitives, but there was insufficient time to do so. Slides for Dr. Strukov's talk will be posted to the IEEE CCS Tech Talks Web page for those who could not attend and interested individuals who would like to review the material not covered. [Photos]
(5) Concert in the park: Having caught up with the backlog of work due to a couple of recent trips, I decided to spend the evening at Santa Barbara's Chase Palm Park, enjoying music, breathing clean air, reading a book, and being energized by young & old dancing their worries away. The band Pop Gun Rerun played memorable 80s tunes. [Video 1, upon my arrival] [Video 2, just before the intermission] Both before and after the concert, I strolled along Santa Barbara's beautiful waterfront. [Panoramic photo] [360-degree video]

2019/07/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president #1 Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president #2 Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president #3 (1) Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president.
(2) Untangling Iran's economic corruption: In this 6-minute video (in Persian), an investigative reporter exposes corrupt officials who enable and benefit from multi-million-dollar scams in the private sector.
(3) NASA's Apollo 11 mission was launched on July 16, 1969, landing astronauts on the Moon on July 20. Many 50th-anniversary observances are planned for July 20, 2019. Here's a video to celebrate the launch.
(4) Iranian Oral History Project: This 1-hour interview with Karim Sanjabi is part of Harvard University's archive, which includes both audio files and transcripts of interviews with individuals involved in Iran's political scene from the 1920s to the 1980s.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Video shows Trump having a good time with child-rapist Jeffrey Epstein, as they ogle young women.
- Meme of the day: We should actually be thankful to Trump for exposing all the racists in our midst! [Image]
- Rep. Mark Meadows, who claims he isn't a racist, once vowed to send President Obama home to Kenya.
- Aras Amiri, a student serving 10 years on charges of espionage, writes to Iran's Head of the Judiciary.
- Fariba Adelkhah, a Paris-based political scientist, has been arrested in Iran on charges of espionage.
- Cartoon of the day: Five stages of White House unemployment. [Image]
(6) Memorable photo from last year's gathering with my college buddies in Yerevan, Armenia: This year, we are planning a get-together in Tbilisi, Georgia, in mid-September.
(7) Two 2020 Granada Theater programs of possible interest to Santa Barbara area residents.
February 05-06: "Beautiful" (Carole King musical); May16-17: Beethoven's 250th birthday celebration
(8) UCSB Emeritus Professor Ian B. Rhodes dead at 78: He was a long-time member of our ECE Department (control systems specialty) and once served as its Chair. Although our technical interests were different, we exchanged ideas frequently on educational and administrative matters, particularly with regard to our service on the campus Committee on Academic Personnel, charged with the evaluation of merits & promotions. RIP!

2019/07/15 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sights from Tehran, Iran: An underpass, with Milad Tower in the background Sights from Tehran, Iran: A traditional chelow-kabob meal, with yogurt drink and condiments A couple of photos of mine from recent Facebook memory reminders (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Sights from Tehran, Iran: An underpass, with Milad Tower in the background, and a traditional chelow-kabob meal, with yogurt drink and condiments. [Right] A couple of photos of mine from recent Facebook memory reminders.
(2) Republicans are either shunning the media or like Congressman Andy Harris offer this explanation for Trump's racist tweets: "He could have meant go back to the district they came from—to the neighborhood they came from." Since when do districts and neighborhoods have governments?
(3) Supporting Trump is becoming harder by the hour: British PM Theresa May joins the chorus of voices criticizing Trump for his overtly racist and xenophobic "love the US or leave it" tweets targeting brown-skinned Congresswomen who have criticized him.
(4) Trump now says that what he meant by his tweets was that anyone who complains or is unhappy can leave the country. Make sure to remind him of this option the next time he whines about witch hunt, deep state, stupid judges, fake news, and a host of other ills in our country!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Turing-Award winner Fernando Corbato, father of time-sharing, Multics, and user passwords, dead at 93.
- Pioneering code-breaker and computer scientist Alan Turing unveiled as face of new £50 note.
- She got a shiner for telling a man who followed her she was not interested.
- Extraordinary art: Stunning sand-and-gold paintings. [1-minute video]
- Watch the labor-intensive process of preparing the famous Yookhe bread in Shiraz, Iran.
(6) The squabbling between several Democratic Congresswomen and the House Speaker should be a cause for joy, not panic: It shows, perhaps even to the Republicans, that in a democracy, party members do not have to blindly follow the "Dear Leader."
(7) Iranian woman tells off a man who insults her for not wearing a headscarf: This is the proverbial "tooth-shattering" response. Hats off to this brave woman! [1-minute video]
(8) Six women photographers explore the complexities of life inside and outside Iran: Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art's exhibit of works by Newsha Tavakolian, Malekeh Nayiny, Shadi Ghadirian, Gohar Dashti, and Mitra Tabrizian (running from August 10, 2019, to February 9, 2020; Washington, DC, National Mall).
(9) Iran has been arresting quite a few visitors with dual citizenship on charges of "spying": Most of these dual citizens are social scientists or environmental activists whose studies reveal systemic social ills and environmental mismanagement/abuse. A clear case of punishing the messenger when the message isn't to one's liking! A term favored by regime elements in such cases is "siaah-namaaee" ("showing blackness"), referring to the activities of such individuals painting an unfairly dark picture of the social/environmental conditions in Iran. Those whose antiquated ideas and misguided policies have brought black days to Iran, now punish others who honestly portray the darkness!

2019/07/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Image from the sci-fi short story 'To Serve Man' Antique Persian typewriter belonging to Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, currently on display at Tehran's Golestan Palace Museum 'Musica Italiana' organ/vocals concert (1) Visuals for today: [Left] Image from the sci-fi short story 'To Serve Man' (see the next to the last item below). [Center] Antique Persian typewriter belonging to Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, currently on display at Tehran's Golestan Palace Museum. [Right] "Musica Italiana" organ/vocals concert (see the last item below).
(2) I enjoy serving fruits and vegetables in interesting and artistic ways and find some on-line videos helpful in this regard. But videos like this one are rather discouraging to us mere mortals!
(3) Trump outdoes his previous racism and sexism: He tells four progressive congresswomen to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested [countries] from which they came." He did not realize that they are doing exactly that, because all four come from the US! Any Republicans have a problem with this unashamedly racist tweetstorm from Trump?
(4) VP Mike Pence's ice-cold stare and lack of compassion as he visits overcrowded and filthy migrant detention camps at the US-Mexico border fuels the #FakeChristian trend on-line.
(5) The night sky last night had Jupiter, the brightest planet in the Solar System next to the Moon.
(6) The Iranian police stops a woman for violating a ban on women riding motorcycles: She flashes her international motocross credentials to no avail! [1-minute video] Along the same lines, Iranian women will soon be banned from eating ice cream in public, according to a new law!
(7) Yet another manisfestation of rampant corruption in Iran: This 10-minute expose, narrated in Persian, shows BastiHills, a walled community with mansions that put those in Beverly Hills to shame.
(8) "To Serve Man": This is the title of a 1950 sci-fi short story by Damon Knight, which formed the basis of a 1962 episode of the TV program "The Twilight Zone." The title is a double-entendre, with "serve" meaning "to assist" or "to provide as a meal." In fact, within the story, "How to Serve Man" is the title of a cookbook! (Info from Moshe Vardi's "Insight" column in the July 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 7, p. 7)
(9) "Musica Italiana": This afternoon, I attended an enjoyable concert by "Minister of Keyboard Music" Thomas Joyce, accompanied by soprano Adriana Ruiz, at Santa Barbara's Trinity Episcopal Church. Dr. Joyce performed solo organ pieces and transcriptions of Italian orchestral works spanning four centuries, concluding with Rossini's "William Tell" overture. What made the concert even more impressive were detailed and witty introductions to the selected works. [Photos and Program]

2019/07/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fruits at a Tehran market Forest wedding reception in Washington State Fruits on an Iranian-style serving plate (1) Natural wonders: [Left] Fruits at a Tehran market. [Center] Forest wedding reception in Washington State. [Right] Fruits on an Iranian-style serving plate.
(2) I don't feel one bit sorry for Paul Ryan: He deserves all the insults Trump is throwing at him (again) for his comments in a forthcoming book: Ryan is trying to justify the unjustifiable, that is, his support for Trump's policies, including deficit-funded tax cuts for the rich, after building his political career as a deficit hawk.
(3) Azalia Mirhoseini, is a Google scientist who uses artificial intelligence to design better chips for doing AI: The Rice University PhD is on MIT's list of "35 Innovators Under 35."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Coast Guard leaps onto and seizes submarine carrying 17,000 pounds of cocaine.
- Labor Secretary resigns after exposure of his role in a sweetheart plea deal for child rapist Jeff Epstein.
- Two Trump campaign chairs in jail for child sex trafficking: But they have been fantastic campaign chairs!
- UCLA adjunct professor Yi Chi Shih convicted for illegal attempts to send dual-use microchips to China.
- Today's "big brother": Google employees listen to private audio played on its home-speaker systems.
- Instrumental version of "The Phantom of the Opera" by Prague Cello Quartet.
- In-nature design by Marentes Partners. [Photo]
- Quote of the day: "People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude." ~ John C. Maxwell
(5) Best uses of Moon's real estate for doing science: The dark side of the Moon from which you cannot see or hear Earth would be an ideal location for installing a radio telescope, because it would be shielded by the bulk of the Moon from human-made electromagnetic noise and other Earth-related phenomenon. [From an article entitled "Project Moon Base Science," IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 56, No. 7, pp. 38-39, July 2019, special issue on "The Coming Moon Rush"]
(6) Will floating-point numbers and computations ever be replaced? The short answer is "no." A somewhat longer answer is "rather unlikely." Here's why.
Alternatives to floating-point have been around for decades. Logarithmic number representation, proposed in the 1970s, has superior error characteristics and relative ease of multiplication and division, which are converted to addition and subtraction. Similarly, squaring and square-rooting simplify to doubling and halving of the logarithms (shifting). However, addition and subtraction become more difficult, dooming the scheme for high-precision computations and relegating its applications to low-precision domains (which are increasingly important). [See pp. 366-367 & 386-387 in the second (2010) edition of my book on computer arithmetic.]
Unified schemes have been proposed over the years to represent all numbers within a single variable-length format for integer and real-valued numbers, while also avoiding overflow and other undesirable exceptions.
One such scheme was championed by John L. Gustafson in his book The End of Error: Unum Computing (CRC Press, 2015). The name "unum" (you'-num) stands for "universal number." The latest incarnation of this approach is called "posits," in which a number is represented by a sign bit, several "regime bits," denoting the kind of number represented, zero or more exponent bits, and zero or more fractional bits. For details, see Gustafson"s 2017 article, "Posit Arithmetic." With this scheme, many commonly-encountered numbers are representable with only a few bits, saving on storage, memory-access, and data transmission costs.
Here is an example of a 16-bit posit: 0 | 0 0 0 1 | 1 0 1 | 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1
The fields from left to right represent the sign (positive), regime bits indicating 256 to the negative-third power (in a kind of unary representation), exponent bits indicating 2 to the fifth power, and fractional part of the significand 1.11011101 (1 + 221/256).
Acceptance of new ideas does not rest solely on technical merit but is affected by social and economic factors. Imagine that you have invented a new programming language that is provably better (more consistent and complete) than any existing language. If you try to force others to come to the same conclusion and adopt your language, you will encounter serious resistance, given the extent of investment in software written in old languages and the vast amount of human expertise built around those languages.
In the case of floating point, hardware implementations and associated skills will constitute a barrier to entry for alternative representations. Billions of dollars have been invested in existing floating-point hardware and the tools and expertise that continue to create them. And there are many thousands of people who earn a living because they know how to do floating-point hardware design and software implementation.

2019/07/12 (Friday): Book review: Silver, Nate, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't, Penguin, 2012. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Figure 5-7B in Nate Silver's 'The Singal and the Noise' Cover image of Nate Silver's 'The Singal and the Noise' Figure 12-11 in Nate Silver's 'The Singal and the Noise' It has been a long time since I was so impressed with a book. Given the arrival of the age of "big data" (whatever that is) and the rise to prominence of "data science," every literate person should read this book and heed Silver's warnings.
A statistician and founder of NYT's political blog FiveThirtyEight.com (the blog's name comes from the number of electors in the US), Silver rose to prominence by his baseball and election analyses and was named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 Most Influential People. The FiveThirtyEight blog began with a forecasting model based on averaging many polls, each weighted according to its past accuracy. It then evolved to include more sophisticated forecasting techniques.
Early in the book (pp. 12-14), we learn of bias as a human defense mechanism against information overload. The human brain is remarkable; it can store several terabytes of information, according to Robert Birge of Syracuse University, yet this is only one-millionth of the information produced in the world each day, as estimated by IBM. So, we have to be extremely selective about the information we choose to remember. In his 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Tofler hypothesized that one way of dealing with information overload is to simplify the world in ways that confirm our biases, shedding nuances and key details in the process. As a result, rather than serving to bring us together, more information tends to push us into the familiar confines of our biases.
Also relevant to the notions above is a view of judgment as lazy thinking. When you see something new, your brain goes into overdrive until you identify it and assign a noun to it ("Oh, that's a fork"); you then relax and stop thinking. The same is true with regard to people ("Oh, that's a Latino/feminist/Republican"). Stoppage of thinking at this point makes you miss all the nuances.
This lust for detecting patterns according to our biases is also what makes us bad at predictions. Yet, predictions are also essential to our decision-making and achieving favorable outcomes for ourselves and those we love. It turns out that the more extreme our beliefs, the less accurate our predictions. Carrying an extreme position makes us less likely to use all the information that is available to us and more likely to make our predictions emotionally, rather than logically.
It's scary to think that we can never make objective predictions, as they will always be tainted by our subjective beliefs. However, just being aware of the problem and believing in the pursuit of objective truth (regardless of our ability to find it) go a long way toward making better predictions.
The noise of the title refers to all the inessential or irrelevant information that prevents us from focusing on what is important. We read on pp. 60-65, for example, that "Political news, and especially the important news that really affects the campaign, proceeds at an irregular pace. But news coverage is produced every day. Most of it is filler, packaged in the form of stories that are designed to obscure [their] unimportance." "Rooting for the story," that is, hoping for a more dramatic turn, is the classic form of media bias. "Candidates, strategists, and television commentators—who have some vested interest in making the race seem closer than it really is—might focus on outlier polls."
The book has a two-part structure: The first 7 chapters, 231 pp., deal with diagnosing the prediction problem (prediction pitfalls, ch. 1-3; dynamic systems such as weather, ch. 4-7) and the last 6 chapters deal with applying the Bayes' fix (Bayes theorem to the rescue, ch. 8-10; examples, ch. 11-13). A concluding section (9 pp.), acknowledgments (3 pp.), notes (56 pp.), and index (20 pp.) end the book. Here are the chapter titles:
Chapter 1: "A Catastrophic Failure of Prediction" (the 2008 financial crisis)
Chapter 2: "Are You Smarter than a Television Pundit?"
Chapter 3: "All I Care About Is W's and L's" (success of predictions in baseball)
Chapter 4: "For Years You Have Been Telling Us that Rain is Green"
Chapter 5: "Desparately Seeking Signal"
Chapter 6: "How to Drawn in Three Feet of Water"
Chapter 7: "Role Models"
Chapter 8: "Less and Less and Less Wrong"
Chapter 9: "Rage Against the Machines"
Chapter 10: "The Poker Bubble"
Chapter 11: "If You Can't Beat'em" (global warming)
Chapter 12: "A Climate of Healthy Skepticism" (terrorism)
Chapter 13: "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You" (market bubbles)
Every chapter is jam-packed with interesting observations, often accompanied by mind-opening visuals (graphics). In the rest of this review, I will cite just a few examples, in the interest of keeping my review shorter than the book itself!
Figure 10-9 (p. 321) is a scatter-plot of batting averages for a number of baseball players during the months of April and May, 2011. The two variables show almost no correlation, highlighting the role of chance in batting success. A similar lack of correlation is seen in Figure 11-3 (p. 340) for stock-market fund performance from year to year. Figure 11-4 (p. 341) stresses the point that market index trends are almost indistinguishable from random walks!
Silver repeatedly stresses the well-known distinction between mere correlation and causation, something that can baffle even experts. Here is one of the most bizarre examples. For three decades, between Super Bowls I and XXXI, stock market rise and fall in the US showed near-perfect correlation with whether the Super Bowl winner was from the National League or the American League (p. 185).
The importance of communicating uncertainties is another key point. For example, there may be a prediction that the water level in a river with 51'-high levees will rise to 49' (p. 178). With these numbers, area residents may feel relieved and safe. However, the prediction may have an uncertainty of plus-or-minus 9'. Knowing this uncertaintly makes a big difference in how people prepare for the upcoming storm.
Another cautionary tale pertains to the dangers of overfitting. Fitting a curve through the data showing frequencies of earthquakes of various magnitudes in Japan (Figure 5-7C, p. 170) might lead to the conclusion that a magnitude-9.5 quake is nearly impossible and that magnitude-9.0 quakes occur once every 10,000 years. A more reasonable extrapolation (Fig. 5-7B, p. 169) puts the frequency of magnitude-9.5 quakes at once every 1000 years. There is a very big difference between these two forecasts! In fact, we have never observed a magnitude-10.0 quake and don't know whether it is even possible.
Predicting rare events is one of the major challenges of forecasting. In predicting quakes, we have gotten pretty good at forecasting long-term trends (Tehran, the capital of Iran, will have one major quake every 300 years) and, more recently, very-short-term trends (a quake will be coming to Los Angeles within minutes). Filling the gap between these two extreme time frames isn't easy! Predicting terrorism is quite similar to earthquakes. Is the one-off event of September 11, 2001, really the worst that can happen (p. 432) or do still more calamitous terror attacks await us?
Complexity does not necessarily make the models better. If you performed linear regression on global temperature records and the levels of CO2, you would get a near-precise prediction (within microseconds, on a laptop) of the trend of 1.5 degrees Celcius warming per century since 1990 (p. 401), even though your model ignored sunspots, the level of sulfur, el-nino effect, and a host of other parameters (whose inclusion would have required hours to run the model on a supercomputer).
Mistaking short-term variations for long-term trends is another pitfall. Global temperatures since 1900 (Figure 12-11, p. 405) show an unmistakable rising trend, but within that trend, there are multiple flatlines (e.g., during the 2000s) and even downshifts (e.g., 1930s-1940s). Some people have a hard time wrapping their head around the notion that such a long-term problem might need immediate (short-term) action, even if the rising trend eases for a decade or two!
Let me end my review with a final example which many of us experienced first-hand. The economic crash of 2008 resulting from a housing bubble was said to have taken analysts by surprise. However, the crash came as a "surprise" because many of them had closed their eyes to warning signs (p. 22). Quite a few people saw the said signs, but their opinions were dismissed, a classic case of skirting inconvenient truths! Similarly, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a "surprise" because people missed or dismissed a large number of warning signs (p. 413).

2019/07/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Poster for Santa Barbara Fiesta (Old Spanish Days)
The Mississippi is already at dangerously high levels, with another 20 inches of rain expected from Hurricane Barry Iran's culture of hand-kissing: A culture built on servitude and idol worship will never achieve greatness (1) Images of the day: [Left] Looking forward to Santa Barbara Fiesta (Old Spanish Days), July 31 to August 4. [Center] Katrina II? The Mississippi is already at dangerously high levels, with another 20" of rain expected from Hurricane Barry. [Right] A culture built on servitude and idol worship will never achieve greatness.
(2) Let's not sugar-coat the allegations against Jeffrey Epstein: A 14-year-old girl isn't an "underage woman" or "woman on the younger side." She is a child. You can't have sex with a child. The proper expression is "raping a child." [Composite from various Internet sources]
(3) Quote of the day: "It makes perfect sense that Trump kicked off his re-election campaign in Orlando, home of Disney World, because his ideas are Goofy and his base is Snow White." ~ Comedian Stephen Colbert
(4) The top-10 things executives should know about software: From an article by Thomas A. Limoncelli in the July 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM (Vol. 62, No. 7, pp. 34-40). "DevOps" means removing the wall between developers and operation (IT). 1. Software is not magic; 2. Software is never "done"; 3. Software is a team effort—nobody can do it all; 4. Design isn't how something looks—it is how it works; 5. Security is everyone's responsibility; 6. Feature size does not predict developer time; 7. Greatness comes from thousands of small improvements; 8. Technical debt is bad but unavoidable; 9. Software doesn't run itself; 10. Complex systems need DevOps to run well.
(5) Persistent memory: Many new non-volatile memory technologies have emerged over the past few years. Using such technologies effectively requires that we develop suitable abstractions across memory hardware and file systems, according to Yan Solihin (U. Central Florida), writing in IEEE Micro magazine, issue of January/February 2019 (Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 65-66).

2019/07/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Astronaut Harrison Schmitt near Tracy's Rock, 3 km from the Moon landing site of Apollo 17 mission (1) Moon landing is back in fashion: NASA's plans for a 2024 Moon landing has led to renewed interest in past landings and future activities there. This photo shows astronaut Harrison Schmitt near Tracy's Rock, 3 km from the Moon landing site of Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
(2) More power to this wonderful woman: Investigative journalist Julie K. Brown of Miami Herald got victims of a cold case involving sexual abuse and human trafficking to speak up, thus bringing down Jeffrey Epstein, a most powerful sexual predator, who may have had support from other powerful men in escaping just punishment via a sweetheart plea deal in 2008.
(3) Iran's war on women: Nasim Basiri's insightful article, in Persian, about how Iran's mullahs try to realize their misogynistic goals by smear campaigns against prominent women, both activists living in Iran and, through their paid agents and apologists, those living in exile.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump has the best medical knowledge, not just among all US presidents, but in the entire universe. [Tweet]
- Borowitz Report (humor): UK unable to find replacement ambassador who does not think Trump is an idiot.
- Travel destination within Iran for experiencing winter (including a snow tunnel) in the middle of summer.
- Iranian regional music and dance from the Caspian province of Guilan. [2-minute video]
- Impressive medical complex opens in Isfahan, Iran, to serve the region and to promote health tourism.
(5) Confusing political activism with treason: See the entire Fox News team freak out over the political activism of the US women's national soccer team! They equate criticism of Trump with being unpatriotic.
(6) Santa Barbara's "Concerts in the Park" program is back for 2019 (Thursdays, 6:00 PM, Chase Palm Park).
7/11, Area 51 (dance band); 7/18, Pop Gun Rerun (80s music); 7/25, Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries (50s/60s rock n' roll); 8/01, no concert (Fiesta); 8/08, Lightnin' Willie and the Poorboys (blues); 8/15, The Blue Breeze Band (Motown/R&B)
(7) The edge of computational photography: This is the title of an interesting article by Keith Kirkpartick in the July 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM (Vol. 62, No. 7, pp. 14-16). Modern digital cameras use hardware to capture image data and software to adjust image parameters to yield a final image. Even though the best computational techniques still fall short of professional photographers with pro-grade equipment, there is no reason to believe that they won't catch up soon, in a manner similar to chess-playing programs.

2019/07/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
E&T magazine's June 2019 cover image: Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci's contributions 500 years after his death Among eight other all-round geniuses listed in the June 2019 issue of E&T magazine, commemorating Leonardo, is the Iranian scholar, poet, and polymath, Omar Khayyam Skyrmions have been in the limelight over the past decade as candidates for building atomic-scale magnetic memory devices and processing logic in combination, as parts of neuromorphic computing structures (1) Images of the day: [Left] E&T magazine's June 2019 cover feature celebrates Leonardo da Vinci's broad contributions to multiple engineering disciplines, in addition to arts and architecture, 500 years after his death. [Center] Among eight other all-round geniuses listed in the June 2019 issue of E&T magazine, commemorating Leonardo, is the Iranian scholar, poet, and polymath, Omar Khayyam. [Right] Skyrmions, discovered in the 1960s by theoretical physicist Tony Skyrme, have been in the limelight over the past decade as candidates for building atomic-scale magnetic memory devices and processing logic in combination, as parts of neuromorphic computing structures (image credit: E&T magazine, issue of June 2019).
(2) The courts are baffled by emojis: "Can a knife emoji double as a threat to kill someone? Does a heart emoji from a manager constitute sexual harassment?"
(3) Ivanka Trump wants to be the first female US president: Having grown up with privilege, she probably thinks that her dad can appoint her US president or buy the presidency for her!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- H. Ross Perot, entrepreneur and former presidential contender who ran on a populist platform, dead at 89.
- Trump's tax reform has reduced charitable donations by $54 billion, doubly hurting the poor.
- Trump once praised Jeffery Epstein, accused child molester, for liking women "on the younger side."
- Trump claims credit for cleaner air and water by citing improvements made over the last 49 years!
- Trump retweets a false quote about himself, attributed to Ronald Reagan, originating from a fake account!
- Leaks expose widespread corruption and sex scandals in Iran's judiciary and Revolutionary Guards.
- Wonderful street art being created. [1-minute video]
- USA Today reports that Melania Trump was an undocumented working model in 1996.
(5) Iran's Islamic regime spends a lot of money on attacking its critics, but it only loses legitimacy by focusing on women's head coverings instead of rampant corruption and sex scandals among its own officials.
(6) World's most-dangerous travel destinations for 2019: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, and Iraq top the list (at positions 1-4), with Norway, Luxembourg, and Switzerland at the bottom (184-182).

2019/07/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Family cruise: Departing Long Beach, California, USA Family cruise: My mom at her 90th birthday celebration Family cruise: In Ensenada, Mexico, in front of a huge Mexican flag (1) Today, I returned from a family-reunion cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, during which we had a belated celebration of my mother's 90th birthday.
- Long Beach departure photos, including glimpses of the Queen Mary luxury liner, now a museum/hotel.
- Some photos of activities taken aboard the Carnival Imagination cruise ship during our July 4-7 trip.
- Family group photos on board the Carnival Imagination cruise ship.
- Photos taken during the cruise ship's stop and our walking tour in Ensenada, Mexico.
- Independence Day celebrations aboard the cruise ship: Video 1, Video 2
- Mary performed solo guitar songs at the cruise ship's atrium lounge: Video 1, Video 2
- Latin music performances aboard the cruise ship: Video 1, Video 2
- The piano-bar's piano man accepted song requests and led the audience in sing-alongs: Video 1, Video 2
(2) Today's soccer news: The US women's national team claimed its fourth World Cup trophy, after beating Netherlands 2-0, on second-half scores by Megan Rapinoe (PK) and Rose Lavelle (a solo-effort goal). The US men's national team, on the other hand, was dealt a 0-1 loss by its arch-rival Mexico in the championship match of CANCACAF Gold Cup.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Amazon asks for FCC's permission to lauch 3236 communications satellites for consumer broadband.
- Saudi Arabia funneled $650 million to US universities to gain benefits from America's top brain trusts. [NYT]
- Fund manager Jeffrey Epstein is charged with human trafficking and sexually abusing dozens of young girls.
- US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman helped Trump ditch 70 years of US diplomacy.
- What appeared to be an exotic bird was actually a seagull who had somehow doused himself in curry!
- Persian Music: Homayoun Khorram's legacy in creating memorable songs for generations of Iranians.
- Musician/lyricist Homayoun Khorram in his last concert, playing "Saagharam Shekast Ey Saaghi."
(4) The US supposedly has a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism: Yet we are negotiating with the Taliban, who have just blown up 17 people and wounded around 200 in central Afghanistan via a suicide car-bombing.
(5) Unbelievably high temperatures in Iran's Khuzestan Province: ~50 C = 122 F. Some reports put the temperature at 65 C = 149 F, but these reports may have rehashed stories from the heat wave of August 2015.

2019/07/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Enemies of the People calling their critics 'Enemies of the People'! Meme: You'll never have enough resources if you don't learn to use them properly Cover image of Ron Stallworth's 'Black Klansman' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon of the day: Enemies of the People calling their critics "Enemies of the People"! [Center] Meme of the day: You'll never have enough resources if you don't learn to use them properly. [Right] See the review of Ron Stallworth's Black Klansman under the last item below.
(2) Ronald Reagan's final thought in his last speech as President: "If we ever closed our door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost."
(3) Nasim Basiri's article (in Persian) about the misogynistic work environment of Iran's women lawyers: Head of Iran's Supreme Court warns judges to not fall for coquettish female defense attorneys!
(4) After he "fell in love" with Kim Jong Un and his spectacular military parades, Trump changes his relationship status on Facebook!
(5) Book review: Stallworth, Ron, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2018.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The first black detective in Colorado Springs thinks of infilterating the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in order to understand its methods and to prevent crimes, if possible. Obviously, conventional infiltration is impossible, given the detective's skin color. So, he teams up with a white detective, of similar build and features, who would do the face-to-face meetings when needed.
As daring and unusual as the plan was, the book does not deliver the typical action and intrigue associated with undercover detective work. Instead, it is a methodical, and somewhat dry, account of the project and its challenges. In the course of his investigation, Stallworth carried out regular phone conversations with the KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and, ironically, he was assigned as a bodyguard to Duke, during his visit to Colorado Springs.
Stallworth had orders to destroy all records of the undercover investigation, but he kept many of the documents, including his KKK membership card. Hence, he was able to reconstruct much of the operation's details in writing the book.
Director Spike Lee turned Stallworth's 2014 memoir into the critically-acclaimed 2018 movie "BlacKkKlansman," which was nominated for six Academy Awards and won in the "Best Adapted Screenplay" category.

2019/07/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Happy Independence Day: On this day, we Americans celebrate the freedoms that our forefathers fought hard to secure and other generations since then sacrificed to maintain. We do not celebrate our flag, but the ideals that are behind it. We do not celebrate our military might, but how it is used to safeguard our freedoms and help others protect theirs. There is a reason that Lady Liberty is holding a torch and not a gun!
(2) A widespread problem with social media, affecting Facebook and WhatsApp: Images and videos were not displayed or clickable yesterday. As usual, users were kept in the dark, rather than being provided with a clear explanation of the troubles.
(3) University of Florida PhD student commits suicide: There are suspicions that academic bullying (pressure to publish in a highly selective computer architecture conference) may have played a role. University authorities, as well as ACM's and IEEE's Computer Architecture Technical Groups, are looking into the matter.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- One of these people isn't like all the others; one of these people doesn't belong. Actually, make that two!
- Draft-Dodger-in-Chief wants his toys on July 4th, the toys he wouldn't look at during the Vietnam War!
- Part of ESPN Magazine's feature on Megan Rapinoe and her basketball-star girlfriend Sue Bird. [Photo]
- Mouth-watering fruits and vegetables, presented with beautiful guitar music (3-minute video).
(5) Use of lotus rhizomes in Asia: They are fried or cooked (mostly in soups), soaked in syrup, or pickled in vinegar. I learned about this interesting (both in looks and taste) vegetable during my Taiwan trip and dug up information about it with help from my host/guide.
(6) US national soccer teams will compete on Sunday: The US women will play in the final match of the World Cup on Sunday 7/07 (8:00 AM PDT, Fox). Their opponent is Netherlands, 1-0 victors in overtime against Sweden on 7/03. The US men will play against Mexico (which edged past a surprisingly tough Haiti 1-0) in the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship game, Sunday 7/07 (6:00 PM PDT, FS1) having prevailed yesterday 3-1 against Jamaica (the team that eliminated them from competing in World Cup 2018).

2019/07/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The five Democratic women who are running for US presidency Ivanka Trump with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin Ivanka Trump with Jack and Rose, as The Titanic sinks (1) Images of the day: [Left] Women rule in 2020: Lost in the shuffle of two-dozen Democrats running for US presidency is the fact that there are five highly qualified women contenders. Our civil rights in general, and women's rights in particular, are being threatened by a Grabber-in-Chief, who keeps setting new records in ignorance and dishonesty. Let's give these women serious consideration! [Center & Right] The Internet is having fun with inserting Ivanka Trump in historic settings where she does not belong!
(2) Women's Soccer World Cup: USA squeaked by England 2-1 to advance to the finals against the winner of the Sweden-Netherlands match, to be played tomorrow. The US goalie saved what appeared to be a sure goal late in the first half and a poorly-taken PK in the second half to cement the win. [7-minute highlights]
(3) ARM processors find their way into supercomputers: NVIDIA is promoting ARM CPUs, alongside its own GPUs, for building compact, energy-efficient supercomputers with open-architecture designs. ARM is known for control-oriented embedded applications, not for raw processing power, so the move comes as a surprise.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Jimmy Carter does not mince his words in calling Trump an illegitimate president.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Trump praises Kim on Immigrtation. "No one is trying to get into your country."
- Underwater dance: I have no idea how this is feasible, but it's graceful and mesmerizing. [7-minute video]
- Quote of the day: "The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(5) UCSB Arts & Lectures "Cinema Under the Stars" program of free movies at the Courthouse Sunken Garden focuses on "Those Fabulous Fifties" in its summer-2019 incarnation (Fridays, 8:30 PM).
7/05 "Roman Holiday"; 7/12 "North by Northwest"; 7/19 "Rebel Without a Cause"; 7/26 "Some Like It Hot"; 8/02 No movie (Fiesta SB); 8/09 "On the Waterfront"; 8/16 "High Noon"; 8/23 "Sunset Boulevard"
(6) When is a soccer score an own goal? If the shot isn't on frame but is deflected into the net, it's an own goal, otherwise (when it is on target but deflected), it is a regular goal credited to the player taking the shot.
(7) Be safe tomorrow: "A statistician made a few calculations and discovered that since the birth of our nation, more lives had been lost in celebrating independence than in winning it." ~ Curtis Billings

2019/07/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flag of Canada A fake 'Best Teacher' magazine cover that would make Trump proud! Cartoon of the day: USS Bone Spurs avoiding rough waters! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Canada Day: Honoring a country that has just added White-Supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups to its list of terror organizations. [Center] A fake Best Teacher magazine cover that would make Trump proud! [Right] Cartoon of the day: USS Bone Spurs avoiding rough waters!
(2) Trump brings his daughter to work: Handbag designer, with absolutely no qualifications to be a "senior" presidential adviser, finds herself conversing with world leaders at the G20 Summit! Try to imagine all the other world leaders also bringing their kids along to the Summit: What an embarrassment!
(3) Hypocrisy to the extreme: Fox News bashed candidate Obama for his willingness to meet with heads of "terrorist nations" like Iran and North Korea. Now that Trump has met one of those leaders multiple times and has offered to meet the other (it hasn't happened only because the other side has declined his offer), "the world is a safer place" and he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!
(4) CONCACAF Gold Cup: Analysts were concerned that the US men's national soccer team might succumb to over-confidence in its match against the tiny nation of Curacao (population 160,000). The exact opposite, under-confidence, happened! In a barely-good-enough performance the US team edged past Curacao with a score of 1-0 to advance to a semifinals match against Jamaica, to be played on Wednesday 7/03.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Birtherism 2.0, targeting Senator Kamala Harris, spread by the son of the perpetrator of Birtherism 1.0!
- Financial Times editorial title ("No, Mr. Putin, ...") and op-ed page cartoon. [Images]
- AMA sets aside its neutrality stance on abortion rights and begins suing states over their new restrictions.
- Computer Engineering at UCSB: An updated Web site is up and running. Here is its research section.
- Viral video: Young man saves a child's life by catching her, as she falls from a building in Istanbul, Turkey.
- "Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think." ~ Buddha
(6) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet: On the irony of people coming to America as immigrants, facing hardships and discrimination, and perhaps going as far as changing their names for protection against bigots, now acting as staunch anti-immigrants.
(7) Oppressing the Baha'is: Iranian authorities tried to shutter an assisted-living facility for the Baha'i community, but were forced to retreat when some residents refused to follow orders to leave.
(8) Persian cuisine and music: This 9-minute video shows the environment and live-music performance at Sara-ye Aryaee, a restaurant established by the son of a college classmate of mine in Tehran.

2019/06/30 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Women's Soccer World Cup continues with excitement and controversy: USA beat Spain 2-1 on two PKs, the award of the second of which seemed rather sketchy. USA then faced the host team France, which labored to beat Brazil in extra time. It is heartbreaking that the tournament's top two teams met in the quarterfinals (round of 8 teams), which also included England, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, and Italy. France dominated in terms of possession (60%) and had more scoring chances, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe scored a goal in each half to give the US team a 2-1 victory and a chance to play England in the semifinals round on Tuesday 7/02. Sweden and Netherlands will play the other semifinals match. The top 3 teams in this tournament will get automatic bids to the Olympics.
(2) Leader of the MAGA movement: Putin says that liberalism is obsolete. If you agree with him, remember that you'll be judged by the company you keep.
(3) Day 6 of my visit to Taiwan (June 29): We headed back from Hualien to Kaohsiung via the same route. So, there isn't much to report. A space-suit-like cat backpack, seen in an elevator at Hualien's Zhixue Train Station, was the only interesting/new sight! I shot this video from the side window of the train, in a region that features agriculture and light industry, en route from Hualien to Kaohsiung, along Taiwan's east coast.
(4) Returning home: After landing at Hong Kong Airport, I was amused by the prospects of time travel en route to Los Angeles: HKG departure 12:55 PM; LAX arrival 11:35 AM; Gaining 80 minutes! After a grueling 26-hour day that began at 5:30 AM in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, I arrived in Santa Barbara. My body's time was 7:30 AM, Monday 7/01, whereas the local time was 4:30 PM Sunday 6/30. I managed to hang on and not sleep until midnight, in order to put myself back on the normal schedule, and it worked like a charm!

2019/06/28 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
I was surprised about the extent to which women are objectified in Taiwanese ad campaigns Happy Tau Day! Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the US women national soccer team (1) Images of the day: [Left] A surprise during my Taiwan trip: The extent to which women are objectified in ad campaigns. I took this photo on a Kaohsiung metro ride. [Center] Happy tau day (6/28): Most people know about Pi Day, celebrated on 3/14. However, 2 x pi, or tau, is a more fundamental scientific constant, because it represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius (The Tau Manifesto). [Right] Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the US women national soccer team: New target of attack by Trump for saying she would not go to the White House if her team wins the World Cup.
(2) Day 5 of my visit to Taiwan (June 28): Today was devoted to a day-trip from Hualien to Taroko National Park and the amazing Taroko Gorge within it (think Grand Canyon, but only 20-100 meters, or 60-300 feet, wide). I will get to details of our trip soon, but first a few mind-boggling facts about Taiwan (formerly Formosa).
The island of Taiwan is only 5 million years old whereas the Earth as a whole is about 1000 times older. Collision of the Pacific Plate and the Eurasia Plate created the island and pushed the Eurasia Plate up, shaping the formidable mountain range that splits the island down the middle, from its northern tip to its southern tip. The range has an average height of 2000 meters, with scores of peaks that are 3000+ meters high. There are thus only a couple of roads connecting the island's west and east coasts. One of these roads goes through Taroko Gorge and reaches an elevation of about 3200 meters along the way.
Even more amazing is the fact that Taiwan has been inhabited for only about 600 years. The first aborigines arrived here from the Philippines and certain Pacific Islands, likely because ocean currents carried them off their daily fishing routes. Taroko National Park used to be inhabited by a tribe of aborigines, whose members were offered generous benefits to resettle elsewhere, so as to allow the National Park's establishment. Today, there are some 0.5 million aborigines in Taiwan, who belong to many different tribes (maps).
Driving up the east coast of Taiwan, one is impressed by the very high mountains nearby, extending all the way to the coast in places. When this happens, as seen in some of these photos, building roads becomes very challenging. The Japanese built the first road in the area, cutting extremely hard, steep rocks in the process. The current modern north-south highway and the train track make it through the area via long tunnels and impressive bridges.
The Taroko National Park's Visitors Center provided maps and also housed exhibits on the region's plants and animals. Scale models of houses and lifestyles of Taroko aborigines and a 3D model of parts of the enormous park were also on display. [Photo]
Lunch at one of the Park's hotels, that features an adjacent musesum, included beef steak, rice cooked within a bamboo shoot, several side items, and a special wine that one would drink by kissing the pig that contained it. The museum exhibited statues and sample living quarters of the area's aborigines. Because these tribes collected heads as trophies, they used facial tattoos to identify themselves to fellow tribesmen. Men also would get a special tattoo as a sign of maturity and heroism upon acquiring the first head. Women's facial tattoos indicated possession of desirable domestic skills. These facial tattoos created a class system in which men with no bravery tattoos were barred from marrying "desirable" women. Given a lack of proper hygiene in those days, imprinting tattoos sometimes led to infections and permanent facial disfigurement.
One of my photos shows the elderly man, perhaps retired, who served as our driver/guide, dropping us off at various points of interest and picking us up at the same location or at the other end of a trail. He provided much of the historical narrative that appears in this and other posts of mine.
A good part of our day was spent walking along scenic trails (~1 km each) to take in the impressive beauty of the gorge. The grayish water flowing at the bottom likely takes its color from minerals in the rocks. Wearing hard hats, provided to visitors free of charge, is strongly recommended in some areas. Of course, the car-size and, occasionally, house-size boulders strewn all around left little confidence that the hard hats would protect us from falling rocks!
The system of tunnels constructed in the area for both roadways and trails is a sight to behold. Building the Park's roadway system began decades ago by army veterans, using only very primitive tools (no heavy equipment and no machinery). Some of the original roadways and tunnels are still in use, but most of them have been widened or replaced. The Eternal Spring Shrine (closed to visitors today due to a heightened danger of rock slides from recent rains) commemorates dozens of workers who perished during the project. [Photos]
A small section of one of the scenic trails along Taroko Gorge, including its elaborate tunnels and concrete covers that protect visitors from falling rocks, is shown in this video. Toroko National Park is a hikers' paradise, with trailheads at virtually every turn. The scenic trails featured in my posts are easy hikes, thanks, in part, to their paved paths and tunnel/bridge shortcuts, but there are quite a few challenging trails for the serious hiker.
On the way back from our day-trip, we stopped at the historic arch-gate marking the east entrance to Taroko National Park, now spanning only part of the much-widened roadway. The Chinese writings on the nearby marker rock identifies the entrance and also states that it is the beginning of an east-west highway to Taiwan's west coast. At a prior stop, I photographed one of the monkeys moving freely on the trees, seemingly unafraid of the visitors walking by. I also photographed one of the local buses, which along with a large number of tour buses, constitute much of the area's traffic. [Photos]
Given how tired we were, we bought some food (dumplings, steamed in stacked bamboo containers) from a road-side joint and drinks from a 7-Eleven store, to take back to our hotel in lieu of going out to dinner. Apparently, 7-Eleven stores are quite prominent in Taiwan, forming important hubs of activities, such as paying bills, transferring money, mailing letters, and, of course, buying food, snacks, and drinks.

2019/06/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Father and daughter drown, as they try to cross the Rio Grande in desperation (1) Two examples of rapists and drug dealers crossing our southern border: Father and daughter drown, as they try to cross the Rio Grande in desperation. Shame on us!
(2) After hiding for 2.5 years behind White House fences, we learn that Jared Kushner can actually talk, and he speaks the same language of deception and deflection as his father-in-law, but with better vocabulary and grammar!
(3) One-liners: News headlines, happenings, memes, and other interesting items.
- Dotard May meet Little Rocket Man at the DMZ between the Koreas.
- Saturn's moon Titan is reportedly NASA's next destination.
- Google maps leads dozens of drivers using GPS navigation into a mud pit, where they get stuck!
- Dutch Rail has agreed to pay 50 million euros to the families of Jews transported to concentration camps.
- Humor for today: The problem with small change! [1-minute video]
- Very touching sign-language performance of a father at his daughter's wedding!
(4) Day 4 of my visit to Taiwan (June 27): I had another wonderful breakfast (my last in Tainan's Zenda Suites), before heading, via a 5-hour train ride between Kaohsiung City and Hualien, to Taiwan's east coast, where a tour of Taroko Gorge is part of my schedule. This morning's Taipei Times features two big stories: A Women's World Cup quarterfinals dominated by Europeans (plus USA, no Asian team) and the years-long state-sponsored hacking of telecom and other tech companies for gaining access to their customers' data and trade secrets, with the said customers having no inkling about the thefts.
After a 25-minute train ride from Tainan to Kaohsiung, I and my graduate-student host/guide boarded a long-distance train to Hualien. The beautiful route of 5+ hours along Taiwan's east coast has high mountains on the left and ocean on the right. We passed through dozens of tunnels of various lengths, including several multi-kilometer ones. [Photos]
Riding the train up the east coast of the island reminded me of driving along Iran's Caspian coast: Greenery as far as the eyes can see, rice paddies and other crop fields stretching all the way to the mountains, and a continuous gentle rain or mist. [Photos] My host and I walked around the enormous and stunning campus of Hualien's National Dong Hwa University, in the vicinity of University Guest House (where we are staying), before going out to dinner in downtown Hualien. [Photos] [Video of super-loud cicada insects on the campus of National Dong Hwa University]
My host's dining choice for tonight was a restaurant in downtown Hualien, which is known for its wonderful beef noodles dish. It also has a mini-museum on its second floor. [Photos]
After dinner, my host and I strolled in downtown Hualien, going into a temple, visiting a night market, and buying a boba dessert to take back to our hotel. [Photos]

2019/06/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Interesting observation by Dan Rather: Several of the Democrats running for US presidency speak Spanish more fluently than Donald Trump speaks English!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump attacks everyone and everything in phone call to Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business.
- Europe has been burning under extreme heat.
- Iranian girls attacked brutally by the police for playing with water guns in a park.
- The exquisite traditional cuisine of Isfahan, Iran. [3-minute video]
- Iranian woman walks/dances on the street without a headscarf, in defiance of the mandatory hijab law.
- Meme of the day: Don't blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus.
(3) Day 3 of my visit to Taiwan (June 26): Having delivered both of my lectures over the past two days, today was my turn to listen to NCKU graduate students, with the aim of learning about the research programs here, providing feedback, and identifying possible collaboration themes. The morning program began with three network-related presentations.
- Dun-Wei Cheng spoke under the title "Hub Location Problem," the combinatorial problem of identifying a number of nodes in a network such that increasing their resources, such as communication or transportation speed/bandwidth, would help achieve good system performance in a cost-effective manner. [Images]
- Chih-Ten Chen spoke under the title "Construction of Independent Spanning Trees on Pancake Networks," showing that an n-pancake network embeds n – 1 edge-disjoint spanning trees, which is the maximum possible, given the node degree of n – 1.
- Chien-Fu Lin spoke under the title "Constructing Independent Spanning Trees on Transposition Networks," defined as networks with n! nodes, labeled by permutations of 123...n, such that two nodes are neighbors if the label of one can be obtained by transposing two adjacent symbols in the other node's label. The presenter showed that n different node-disjoint spanning trees can be embedded in a transposition network of order n.
After a short break, the session continued with two presentations having healthcare informatics themes.
- Hung-Yu Yan: "Prediction of Recurrence of Colorectal Cancer Patients by Clustering Algorithm."
- Tzu-Hsuan Vu: "Analyzing Protein Stability with Rosetta and 3D HP Model to Predict Pathogenic SNP."
I took this photo of part of NCKU campus from the 8th floor of the building housing Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering.
After the morning presentations, a group of NCKU graduate students and staff had took me to have lunch at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant, with too many dishes served (family style) for me to even sample all of them. The food photos show fewer than half of the items served. I asked to be excused from tonight's planned dinner outing, given how much food I have consumed over the past two days! [Photos] Behind us in a glass display case is a 100-year-old lantern.
After lunch we had a half-visit to Chimei Museum. This private museum, built by Shi Wen-long of Chi Mei Corporation, boasts impressive collections in fine arts, musical instruments, natural history & fossils, arms & armor, and antiquities & artifacts. We were supposed to have visited the museum yesterday, but last-minute schedule changes postponed the visit to today, the day the museum is closed. Instead, I and two graduate-student companions walked within the gorgeous grounds and took some interesting photos of the natural and architectural marvels therein.
Student presentations with health informatics themes continued in the late afternoon. [Photos]
- Yun Li spoke under the title "Development of Tunable Dielectrophoresis Enabled Microfluidic System Based on L-Shaped Electrodes for Size-Based Particle Sorting," a system with the goal of separating particles of various sizes on the order of a few micrometers.
- Tsorng Haw Chen: "Atrioventicular Reentrant Tachycardia Detection with Convolutional Neural Network."
After a short break, I engaged in exchange of ideas, offering some suggestions on how to advance the research on edge-disjoint spanning trees by considering implications to edge and node fault tolerance.

2019/06/25 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Rise in the global sea levels has brought island nations to the front line of the fight against climate change: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the cover of Time magazine, issue of June 24, 2019.
(2) Iran's sports policies questioned: FIFA gives Iran a final ultimatum to allow women into all sports stadiums unconditionally, or face being banned from international competition. FIFA has made it clear that show admission of small numbers of women, with many restrictions, will not do.
(3) Day 2 of my visit to Taiwan (June 25): Began the day by enjoying breakfast at Zenda Suites, the hotel where I was based during my stay in Tainan. The buffet featured a large variety of items, including super-fresh fruits and vegetables. Taipei Times' top story was about Taiwan's new, highly-advanced weather satellite, to be launched later today from Florida, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket. [Photo]
I had a couple of free hours between breakfast and my 10:30 AM technical talk, so I set out to explore parts of Tainan, the city of scooters and hybrid architecture. I had to limit the walk to much less than my normal routine, given the extreme heat and humidity. Half an hour after I ended my walk, a downpour started that lasted for a couple of hours. [Photos]
Next, I delivered my second talk entitled "Neurophysiological Discoveries of the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine from a Computer Arithmetic Perspective" at NCKU's International Conference Room. The audience was smaller than yesterday, both due to the more specialized nature of the talk and a heavy downpour (not to mention the fact that the talk included discussion of rats at times)! [Links to slides: PPT, PDF] [Photos]
After the talk, I had lunch with a group of NCKU graduate students at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant. The delightful meal, served family-style, included many items that were new to me. And there was the ever-present fountain, which represents good luck (flow of water = flow of customers) for business owners. [Photos]
After taking a short break at the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, I met with Dr. Chi-Chuan Hwang, Chair Professor at Department of Engineering Science, and some members of his research team. The group has invented a new class of interconnection networks based on chordal rings and is pursuing plans to include it in the design of an actual supercomputer. After a video presentation of their work, we engaged in a discussion of various approaches to the design of interconnection networks, during which I described some of my work on periodically-regular chordal rings (IEEE Trans. Parallel and Distributed Systems, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 1999). We parted with promises of future contacts and possible collaboration. [Photos]
Later, we had dinner at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant, with my host and his adorable children, Lucy and Ray, to whom I am "Uncle Parhami." The dinner was wonderful, although most of the items (including a "dessert soup") and their ingredients had to be explained to me! [Photos] [Lucy and Ray, when I first met them three years ago and today, as fourth-graders]

2019/06/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The eruption of Raikoke Volcano (Kuril Islands in the northwest Pacific Ocean), as seen from the International Space Station Actress portraying the plight of an acid-attack victim This is Donald Trump's vision for a newly-great America: Migrant children in detention camps, with no soap, toothbrush, medical care, or even a place to sleep! (1) Images of the day: [Left] The eruption of Raikoke Volcano (Kuril Islands in the northwest Pacific Ocean), as seen from the International Space Station. [Center] Actress portraying the plight of an acid-attack victim (see item 2 below). [Right] This is Donald Trump's vision for a newly-great America: Migrant children in detention camps, with no soap, toothbrush, medical care, or even a place to sleep!
(2) Acid attacks and other forms of violence against women: The photo above is a dramatization, but real acid-attacks exist, are abhorrent, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, no matter where they occur, the perpetrators' motives, and statistical distribution of the attacks (geographically or relative to other forms of violence against women). Acid attacks, "honor" killings (which aren't honorable at all), and other forms of punishing a woman for what she does (or is suspected of having done), and sometimes for what others do, arise from the extreme patriarchal sense of ownership of women by men. It is also rooted in religious brainwashing that "sinners" should be confronted at all cost to help them avoid punishment in Hell, even if this requires killing them. In a religious fanatic's mind, killing such people is tantamount to doing them a favor. Furthermore, such punishments serve to warn others about dire consequences of "sinning." Violence against women is rampant in Islamic-majority countries (Afghanistan being perhaps the most extreme example), even though official stats may not show it due to most cases going unreported for fear of revenge or being shamed. But the problem is by no means limited to Islam. In my home region of Southern California, there are many reports of women (particularly Latinas) being beaten, shot, or killed by (ex-)husbands or (ex-)boyfriends, their "sin" being dumping a man or violating the "property rights" of the offender by carrying on a relationship with someone else. Patriarchy is at the root of these evils, and religious dogmas are enablers of patriarchy.
(3) Day 1 of my visit to Taiwan (June 24): I flew over the vast Pacific Ocean to Hong Kong and back to Kaohsiung, the international airport at the south tip of Taiwan. Which is a 1-hour drive away from Tainan City and NCKU. Ironically, my 14-hour LAX-HKG flight went right over Kaohsiung and Tainan! [Images]
In the late afternoon, I delivered my first talk entitled "Eight Key Ideas in Computer Architecture from Eight Decades of Innovation" at NCKU's International Conference Room. [Links to slides: PPT, PDF] [Photos]
After the technical talk, I was treated to a sumptuous 8-course Taiwanese dinner at Far Eastern Plaza Hotel's Shanghai Pavilion, boasting a fantastic view of the NCKU campus and Tainan City. [Photos]

2019/06/23 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Beatles, in one of their good-natured, mischievous poses Part of a bigger poster, which suggests that reading changes one's life journey For those who continue to use logic and arguments with MAGA folk (T-shirt with insults and foul language) (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Beatles, in one of their good-natured, mischievous poses. [Center] Part of a bigger poster, which suggests that reading changes one's life journey. [Right] For those who continue to use logic and arguments with MAGA folk: This is the level of their discourse and language ability. Good luck!
(2) A most-surprising finding about honesty: Scientists drop 17,000 wallets in 40 countries around the world. Economics theories predict that a wallet with more cash is less likely to be returned to its owner. The findings, published in the journal Science, showed the exact opposite. Read on for many more interesting results.
(3) A very revealing and accusatory speech (in Persian) by the late Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who clarifies that the nuclear deal was sought and directly approved by the Supreme Leader, who was terrified of the possibility of an oil-for-food program similar to what the UN imposed on Iraq.
(4) Persian music: The song "Morgh-e Sahar," performed with lyrics that are taken from a different part of the same poem by Malek-ol-Shoara-ye Bahar used in the standard version. [4-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump and Iran's mullahs just need some favorable headlines that show they are winning. [Cartoon]
- What ails Iran's economic and educational systems. [7-minute video, in Persian]
- Toddlers react to experiencing rain for the first time. [1-minute video]
- Adorable baby, kissing and enjoying being kissed while asleep. [Video]
- Persian poetry: Recitation and interpretation of a poem by Mowlavi (Rumi). [4-minute video]
- Persian music: The song "Bahaar-e Delkash," with its history and various performances. [3-minute video]
- Persian Music: School children, offering their wonderful rendition of the popular oldie "Jaan-e Maryam."
(6) Day 0 of my visit to Taiwan: I boarded my flight to Hong Kong at LAX, with the final destination being Tainan, Taiwan, in the wee hours of this Sunday morning. I will be in Taiwan from Monday through Saturday, June 24-29 (Days 1-6), about which I will report in the coming days. I am traveling very light, with only a smallish checked bag and a tiny backpack; highly recommended, if feasible. [Selfies]

2019/06/22 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on a flight to Miami Meme of the day: Wars are started by rich old men but kill poor young men New stores at Goleta's Fairview Center (1) Images of the day: [Left] Bernie Sanders (seat 15A) and Elizabeth Warren (seat 16A) flying to Miami: There were no reports of Warren kicking Sanders' seatback or otherwise disturbing him (source: Tweet by Steve Clemons). [Center] Meme of the day: Wars are started by rich old men but kill poor young men. (No need to be gender-neutral here, it has been predominantly men in both cases.) [Right] New look for a local shopping center in Goleta: When a Vons supermarket closed at Fairview Center, a Sprouts Farmers Market moved in, but the new store used only about 70% of the space. The remaining space is being renovated for a new mystery business, with no signs or other indications regarding its nature. The closed OSH store will soon be replaced by another hardware store (Miner's/Ace). The Radio Shack store, located between the Fairview Center sign and Starbucks, is now a T-Mobil store.
(2) The next IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Professor Dmitri Strukov (UCSB) will speak under the title "Alternative Computing with Memristors" (Goleta Valley Public Library, 500 N. Fairview Ave., Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 6:00 PM; free admission). [Flyer]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some interesting facts about Northern Summer Solstice, which occurred at 8:54 AM (PDT) yesterday.
- One of these 12 women astronauts will go on a NASA Moon mission soon. [Photo]
- Wonders of nature, set to music. [3-minute video]
- Santa Barbara has an elaborate Summer Solstice festival, including a parade along State Street. [Poster]
(4) The atoms in our bodies come from distant stars: Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates this amazing video (bearing Persian subtitles) about how the universe is in each of us.
(5) Soccer puzzle: Teams 1-4 in a round-robin group have played two matches each. Here are the stats for the four teams, in order from 1 to 4: Wins, 2, 1, 0, 0; Draws, 0, 1, 1, 0; Losses, 0, 0, 1, 2; Goals for, 3, 2, 2, 0; Goals against, 1, 1, 3, 2. Can you determine the matches that have been played and their scores?

2019/06/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Logo for Top 500 Spercomputers site (1) World's most-powerful supercomputers: For the first time, every entry on the top-500 supercomputers list has a performance of at least 1 petaflops. The performance range is from 1 to ~150 petaflops. The top two machines are US-based. China has 219 computers in the top 500.
(2) IEEE Floating-Point Standard 754-2019: The new version of the standard, first issued in 1985 and last updated in 2008, is now up and running after years of discussion and more than a year in the final stages of fine-tuning and voting.
(3) Humorous Persian poetry (with some Arabic thrown in): Well, it appears that even some mullahs have turned critical of ineptitude, corruption, and despotism in Iran's government! [Video]
(4) My souvenir magnets display board: Just completed one more deferred project during the week I took off between the end of the academic year and my upcoming research trip to Taiwan, starting on Sunday 6/23.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Scores of police officers are under investigation for racist and misogynistic posts on social media.
- Women's Soccer World Cup: USA beat Sweden 2-0, scoring one goal early in each half. [Highlights]
- The US women's soccer team will face Spain on 6/24 in the round-of-16, potentially facing France after that.
- "Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." ~ J. A. Baldwin
(6) How the Democrats and the liberal elites failed to tell the four stories on which America stands: Two stories based on hope (the triumphant individual, the benevolent community) and two based on fear (the rot at the top, the mob at the gates). Failing to use some of these real stories, they left the political scene open to fake stories which produced Trump. [16-minute commentary by Robert Reich]
(7) War is dangerously close: Trump reportedly ordered air strikes against Iranian targets but pulled back at the last minute. This may not represent a reversal but a delay, due to various conditions such as low visibility or giving time to the Saudis and other Persian Gulf countries to prepare for possible retaliatory strikes. Trump has painted himself into a corner and may not have any way out other than starting a war.
(8) Final thought for the day: Some conservatives counter every argument I make against Trump and his policies with "You say that because you're consumed by a hatred for Trump." Guilty as charged! I wear my liberalism and Trump-hatred as badges of honor.

2019/06/19 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some of my certificates of appreciation and awards 'New Yorker' cartoon for the caption contest (1) Images of the day: [Left] Some of my certificates of appreciation and awards: These photos, taken at different times today, show the completion of another long-postponed project, thanks to the week-long break I took after the end of the academic year 2018-2019. [Center] I entered New Yorker's latest cartoon caption contest with this caption: "The good thing about a do-it-yourself maze is that we can place the cheese right at the entry." [Right] This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk (see the last item below).
(2) Beating/dragging of a woman by Iran's security forces: I don't know what this woman is accused of, but the police brutality and the nonchalant behavior of the bystanders are very troubling.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran-aligned Yemeni Houthi rebels strike a power station in Saudi Arabia with a cruise missile.
- Mother of a young Iranian political prisoner who was stabbed to death while in custody speaks up.
- Small colleges across the US are closing down because of lack of funding and low enrollments.
- Persian poetry: Little girl recites a Hafez poem. [1-minute video]
(4) Today's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Professor B. S. Manjunth (Distinguished Professor of ECE, and Director, Center for Multimodal Big-Data Science and Healthcare, UCSB; Co-Founder and CEO, Mayachitra, Inc.) spoke under the title "Computer Vision, Deep Learning and Big Data: Opportunities and Challenges." The AI revolution, fueled by the resurgence of neural networks, has affected all areas of computing, and computer vision is no exception. The amount of visual data available is growing exponentially and the number of important applications that rely on visual data is rising correspondingly. Cameras are being put everywhere for reasons ranging from security to quality control and traffic-flow analysis, to name just a few areas. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) alone has some 5000 cameras. Robotics, medical imaging, and self-driving cars are but a few of the emerging applications.
Professor Manjunath gave an overview of his lab's current work on computer vision that spans a broad range of applications, from cybersecurity and media forensics to camera networks and activity recognition. The fundamental problems that cut across these applications are feature extraction and matching, and one can train neural networks to learn these effectively when large amounts of data is available. At the same time, these neural networks are quite brittle, and could be easily fooled. A well-known example is provided by strategic alteration of a small number of pixels in the image of a stop sign to cause a computer vision system to interpret it as a speed-limit sign. The presentation also included an overview of BisQue, an open-source scalable platform for scientific image analysis developed by Professor Manjunath's research team. Evolved as part of work on microscopy imaging, BisQue is now used in applications ranging from life science and medicine to marine sciences and materials science.

2019/06/18 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Old photos of my sons Humor: Being in tune with nature Old and new photos of my daughter (and some of her handicrafts) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Old photos of my sons, which I organized over the past week to display on our foyer wall. [Center] Humor: Being in tune with nature. [Right] My daughter and some of her handicrafts.
(2) Shameless hypocrisy: Mitch McConnell, tobacco industry's "special friend" who benefited from millions in campaign contributions in exchange for promoting the industry's talking points, now pretends to care about the high rate of lung cancer in Kentucky!
(3) Ratcheting up hate for 2020: "Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in." ~ Donald Trump, in a tweet
(4) Behind in the polls for even his second term, Trump keeps "joking" about serving more than two terms as president. Apparently, that's the only plan he can muster to stay out of jail!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- An environmental activist becomes Slovakia's first female president.
- Writing in The Atlantic, Peter Wehner exposes Trump's sinister assault on truth.
- I didn't know about these sign-offs: Play it safe and never end a professional e-mail with Xs and Os!
- News of the weird: Missing Indonesian woman was swallowed whole by a 23-foot python. [Graphic video]
(6) A loss for right-wing conspiracy theorists: Father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School victim wins defamation lawsuit against conspiracy theorists who claimed in a book that the mass-shooting never happened. The book's publisher has apologized and indicated that it will withdraw the book.
(7) The very first national anthem of Iran: Alfred Jean Baptiste Lemaire composed this anthem, entitled "Vatanam" or "Salam-e Shah" ("My Homeland" or "The King's Salute") in 1873 on orders from Naser al-Din Shah Qajar. The music was arranged by Siavash Beizai, with lyrics attributed to Bijan Taraghi. The signer is Shaghayegh Kamali. Lately, "Ey Iran" has become Iran's de-facto national anthem, in defiance of the mullahs' regime, which prefers its own version.
(8) Tweet of the day: "Call it a concentration camp or call it something else. What's happening on our southern border is moral stain on the US. Cruelty as policy means these children are in impossible and inhumane situations, and a for profit company is making 750 bucks per day per person." ~ Brian Schatz

2019/06/17 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Satellite image of the Caspian Sea Cover image of Robert Galbraith's 'Career of Evil' Trump tweets that his contacts with foreigners, such as 'Prince of Whales' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Satellite image of the Caspian Sea (see item 2 below). [Center] Cover image of Robert Galbraith's Career of Evil, reviewed under item 5 below. [Right] Trump tweets that his contacts with foreigners, such as 'Prince of Whales,' present no problem whatsoever and, thus, need not be reported to FBI.
(2) The Caspian Sea: When seen from space, it's hard to imagine that it takes 10 hours to drive across the giant lake's south edge, from Gorgan on the right, through Sari, Amol, Chalus, Ramsar, Lahijan, and Rasht, to Bandar-Anzali, east to west, and then turning northwest to Talesh and Astara. Lately, the Caspian has been shrinking, but over the past few decades, it has gone up and down. As a closed system, the water level is a function of three factors: Percepitation (variable and unpredictable), river inflow (mostly from Volga, but also Ural and smaller rivers), and evaporation (rising, due to global warming). So far, the net effect has not been worrisome. There was an average rise of 13 cm/year in sea level from 1979 to 1995 and an average decline of about 7 cm/year from 1996 until now.
(3) My Sunday hike on More Mesa bluffs: More Mesa is a huge open-space/nature-preserve by the beach, between Goleta and Santa Barbara. The weather was ideal for hiking. [Selfie] [Panorama] [Video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US women's soccer team generates more revenue than men's, yet women players are paid much less.
- Hackers that shut down a Saudi oil facility in 2017 are now targeting electric utilities in the US and Asia.
- Trump discussing his favorite author and the book he is reading in this 1987 interview!
- The flying fish: Tweet, with 1-minute video recorded at Sistan Dam, Iran.
- Underwater artist: The fish that creates amazing art on the sea-floor to attract females.
(5) Book review: Galbraith, Robert (pen name for J. K. Rowling), Career of Evil, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Robert Glenister, Hachette Audio, 2015. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I did not realize, until I had finished the novel, that it was the work of J. K. Rowling, writing under a pseudonym about private detective Strike and his secretary/business-partner Robin Ellacott. It is the third volume in the Cormoran Strike series. Each chapter begins with a song lyrics segment from the band Blue Oyster Cult, and "Career of Evil" is the title of a song by the band.
Early in the story, Ellacott receives a package that contains a woman's severed leg. Strike, a former military policeman and an amputee, has several theories about why Ellacott was targeted to send a message to him. He thinks that one of four people from his past could be the culprit, and he and Ellacott pursue leads throughout the rest of the story, as the police also conduct their own investigation.
The writing in this crime-mystery is quite absorbing, particularly where it concerns the personal lives of the two main characters and the affection and sexual tension between them. Ellacott is about to get married, but isn't sure whether she should proceed, and Strike in involved in a half-hearted relationship, so he too is wary of letting his feelings mar the business partnership.
To add to the intrigue, Strike is impressed with Ellacott's wit and investigative abilities, but sometimes gives her a hard time, when he acts in an overly protective manner, because he doesn't want her get hurt by nefarious characters from his past.
The book, rich in detail and character development, is sure to appeal to those with more-than-minimalist taste in crime-mysteries.

2019/06/16 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fathers' Day greeting One more year's gone by and I am relieved I didn't get a tie as Fathers' Day present. Congratulations to UCSB Gauchos, class of 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Fathers' Day! [Center] One more year's gone by and I am relieved I didn't get a tie as Fathers' Day present. The message and coffee-club subscription (with a bag to keep me going until the first shipment arrives) are both very thoughtful! [Right] Congratulations to UCSB Gauchos, class of 2019!
(2) At today's Fathers' Day lunch, my fortune cookie (reading "A sense of humor is one of your greatest assets") vindicated me, although the kids think it was meant as humor!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- On this Fathers' Day: Seven dads describe the onset of fatherhood.
- Trump campaign upset over leak of internal polling data to Americans (leak to Russians would be okay).
- Tens of millions of subscribers affected by massive power outage in two Latin-American countries.
- Power of civic engagement: Hong Kong's leader nixes unpopular extradition law after massive protests.
- Pandering, to the extreme: Israel unveils a new town called "Trump Heights."
- NASA news: First female astronaut to walk on the Moon by 2024.
(4) Winds of war are blowing: The chess game in the Persian-Gulf region continues to baffle ordinary observers. The US and Saudi Arabia insist that Iran is to blame for attacks on oil tankers near Strait of Hormuz. Neither country has credibility with the international community, given US's fake intelligence data that led to the Iraq war and the Saudis' less-than-subtle approach to attacking and eliminating their opponents (remember Khashoggi?). Europeans are cautioning against a rush to assigning blame. Iran, meanwhile, has accused the US of instigating the tanker attacks to create an excuse for starting a war with Iran. Again, the Islamic regime has zero credibility with much of the world. It also has ample motivations for stirring the pot, given serious economic hardships it faces as a result of sanctions and the easing of economic woes that rising oil prices would provide. The Israeli government is acting as a cheerleader for the US and the Saudis, in continuation of its long-term stance against Iran as an existential threat to Israel. [Photo]
(5) A whole lot of soccer's going on: The Under-20 men's World Cup just ended, with Ukraine claiming the championship. The Gold Cup (which includes the US men's team) is in progress, with Mexico beating Cuba 7-0 yesterday. And the US women just played their second preliminary-round match in the Women's World Cup against Chile, having beaten Thailand 13-0. After leading 3-0 at halftime, the US failed to score in the second half, thanks to world-class goalkeeping on the part of Chile, a missed PK, and a lot of help from the crossbar and goalposts. The US team now occupies the top spot in Group F, as it awaits the 6/20 match against the second-place Sweden. [10-minute highlights]

2019/06/15 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Mehrnoosh Mazarei's 'Madam X' (1) Book review: Mazarei, Mehrnoosh, Madam X: Collection of Stories (in Persian), Baran Press, 2008 (2nd printing, 2018).
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads] [ISBN: 978-91-85463-19-0]
Written from 2003 to 2007, this collection of short stories, whose titles and very brief descriptions are given below, does not seem to have a unifying theme. Some of the stories happen in the US, others, in Iran; some appear to be autobiographical, others, works of fiction. I liked Mazarei's English-language novel, Mina's Revolution, better. The writing isn't as good in this volume and there are quite a few typos and a glaring factual error (where, on p. 63, San Pedro in California is described as being an Atlantic port).
- "A Great Movie": Husband, the narrator, and wife have good chemistry, but can't seem to agree on the movie they've just seen.
- "The Road Behind the Orange Grove": Adventures of a woman, apparently married or otherwise attached, on a solo get-away.
- "The Day My Brother Was Born": A girl's mom gives birth to her brother, amid the traditions (and anti-Semitism) of rural Iran.
- "Can One Clean All Stains?": Story of a woman who's obsessed with removing stains from all household items and surfaces.
- "Madam X": In this farce (or is it a farce?), the female narrator decides to pre-emptively cheat on her husband, because he'll eventually cheat on her, but her inhibitions are too great to overcome.
- "Trip to the North": Family drives to a long-awaited vacation at the Caspian shores, only to experience heartbreak upon arrival.
- "Can You Imagine Nooshin at the Moment of ...": A battered women in hiding reflects on her own and her daughter's fate.
[Side note: Persian writing is from right to left and book pages also go in the opposite direction of English. So, the GoodReads entry for the book shows the image of its back cover, instead of its front cover!]
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump warns of epic stock market crash if he's not re-elected in 2020.
- Shooting inside a Costco store in Corona, Southern California, leaves 1 dead, 3 injured.
- It's alarming that the Chair of US Federal Election Commission felt compelled to issue this statement!
- The five biggest whoppers by the departing WH Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
- An inspired Ukraine came from behind to beat Korea 3-1 and win its first U-20 Soccer World championship.
- On whether it's okay to have liquids with your meal: It is, if you believe this 7-minute video.
- Vittorio Monti's "Czardas" played by a military band, featuring wonderful violin and mandolin solos.
- A group of my college friends gathered in Tehran, at a restaurant founded by the son of a classmate.
(3) On Iran's opposition groups: This article divides them into anti-sanctions/war (including reformists, religious-nationalists, secular leftists, labor groups, human-rights activists) and pro-sanctions/war (including monarchists, MEK, some ethnic groups).
(4) The authoritarian regime: Tweet about how an Islamic Republic of Iran official ended the career of Shabnam Tolouei with a confidential memo decreeing that she be banned from all artistic activities.
(5) Dining with my children on the patio of Kyle's Kitchen Restaurant: The beautiful afternoon weather and the ongoing UCSB graduation weekend are good for Santa Barbara's and Goleta's food joints, which are all jam-packed. Other than great soup and salad, we enjoyed live music by a talented duo. [Video 1] [Video 2]

2019/06/14 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Locations of the two oil tankers attacked near Strait of Hormuz (map) Photos of kids of different races hugging Persian calligraphy: A verse from Mowlavi (Rumi), rendered by unknown artist (1) Images of the day: [Left] Locations of oil tankers attacked near Strait of Hormuz: There are conflicting accounts on who did it and how. [Center] Children deem racial differences unimportant: They have to be taught by adults to hate. [Right] Persian calligraphy: A verse from Mowlavi (Rumi), rendered by an unknown artist.
(2) A humorous Persian poem about the perils of being single ("azab" in Persian): The poem is quite funny and nicely written, but I am less impressed with the setting where the poet recites his work.
(3) First NBA championship for Toronto: It was a close game, 114-110, but that's all the Toronto Raptors needed to win the NBA finals series 4-2 over the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NASA honors women computer scientists by renaming its headquarters street "Hidden Figures Way."
- Now's the time to graduate with an IT degree: Information technology unemployment rate stands at 1.3%.
- NIH Director pledges not to participate in all-male panels and urges other science leaders to do the same.
- Women's Soccer World Cup: Australia comes back from a 0-2 deficit to defeat Brazil 3-2.
- Impressive flash-mob dance in Belgium to "Do Re Mi" from "Sound of Music."
- New Yorker cartoon caption: "Says here he leaves behind a wife, two children, and 47 Tweeter followers."
(5) Persian music: A variety of genres, mostly oldies composed/written in the pre-Islamic-Revolution Iran.
- Duet performance of the old song "Shaaneh" (unknown artists and venue).
- The old song "Omid-e Jaanam," performed by Leyla Marvdashti and a band of female players.
- The old song "Bordi az Yaadam," performed by Leyla Mavdashti and her dad. [5-minute video]
- The old song "Raghs-e Guisoo" ("Dance of Locks"), made famous by Delkash.
- Tajik's performance of the very old, popular song "Rud-e Karun" ("Karun River").
- The little master-tombak-player: He really feels the instrument and the music! [1-minute video]
(6) Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): John Oliver reminds us that even though Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution decades ago, we are still one state short of the 38 states required to ratify it. The 13 hold-out states that do not believe in women's equality include Arizona and Florida.
(7) An interesting article (in Persian) about the Persian script: Hamid Sahebjami, writes in Iran Namag (Vol. 3, No. 3, Fall 2018, pp. 45-61) under the title "The Persian Script and Iranian Temperament." [PDF]

2019/06/13 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Goleta Beach pier at the end of a summer day (1) Goleta Beach pier at the end of a summer day: Having completed my spring teaching, exams, and grading, I eagerly await the arrival of summer and will be transitioning into summer research mode after a brief break.
(2) George Orwell's service to humanity: Seventy years ago, he delayed crucial medical care to finish 1984, because he believed so much was at stake. Half a year later, he was dead. [Source: Time magazine]
(3) Prospects of war in the Persian Gulf: With oil tankers hit by torpedoes in the Gulf of Oman, the odds of war in the Persian Gulf region have risen. All it takes is an error or a deliberate provocation from those itching for war on either side to start armed conflict. Ironically, the two oil tankers hit had Japan-related cargo, as Japan's Prime Minister Abe is in Iran trying to ease Iran-US tensions. [WSJ report] [Japan Today report]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cartoon of the day: "I don't know how much more of this Mexico can take." [Image]
- Three months after protesting unsafe conditions, Iranian political activist is stabbed to death in prison.
- Iranian police forces assault women peacefully gathered in front of a sports stadium.
- Artificial intelligence used to construct human faces based on their voices.
(5) Sarah Huckabee Sanders will leave the White House at the end of June, and Kellyanne Convey has been recommended for dismissal by a federal watchdog because of repeately violating the Hatch Act (meddling in elections as a federal employee).
(6) Jews of Iran's Kurdistan in Israel: In the years after the end of World War II, Iranian Jews in Kurdistan felt insecure, given the inability of the central government to quell cessation-seeking insurgents who also had anti-Semitic tendencies. As a result, many Jews were provided with assistance from the newly formed nation to emigrate to Israel. The flow of Jews from Iran to Israel has continued since then, with a second peak occurring around the time of the Islamic Revolution (both before and after). Some 200,000 Kurdish Jews from Iraq and Iran live in Israel, about half of them in Jerusalem and the rest scattered throughout the country. I learned from a cousin living in Israel that Iranian Kurdish Jews have begun an effort to document the lives of members of their community, in particular publishing their names and photos as they pass. The 8-page newsletter captured in these images is one example. I don't read Hebrew, so will ask my bilingual friends to help me with understanding the contents of this newsletter, including a more accurate transcription of names.

2019/06/12 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The number of hyphens used in a paper's title significantly affects its citation count Plant growth seems ad-hoc, but much of it can be predicted by precise mathematical models A collaborative robot system automatically treats back, neck and head pain caused by soft tissue injury (1) Today's illustrated science posts: [Left] Our scientific ranking system based on the number of citations is broken: In a bizarre new finding, researchers from Hong Kong and Australia investigated the world's two leading citation indexing systems, Scopus and Web of Science, and found that the number of hyphens used in a paper's title significantly affects its citation count, with more hyphens being detrimental to the paper's influence. [Center] Plant growth seems ad-hoc, but much of it can be predicted by precise mathematical models: The influence of the Fibonacci sequence on spiral patterns in sunflowers and pine cones is well-known. Generally speaking, leaves protect their personal space, thus preventing new leaves from growing nearby. It is now believed that movements of the growth hormone auxin and the proteins that transport it throughout a plant are responsible for such patterns. [Right] Robotic laser therapy: A collaborative robot system treats back, neck and head pain caused by soft tissue injury. Based on an analysis of the patient by a thermal camera, the system uses a collaborative robot to apply targeted laser therapy to identified pain hot-spots.
(2) A Swiss billionaire, who had formerly given $125 million to Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, adds another $131 million to his support.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nancy Pelosi reacts to Trump calling her a 'nasty ... horrible person': "I'm done with him!"
- Trump claims that China's $13 trillion economy has lost $15-$20 trillion in value since his election!
- The little master-painter: Unbelievable skill and talent! [4-minute video]
- Instrumental harp music: Talented harp player performs "Despacito." [3-minute video]
(4) Quote of the day: "You don't build a business telling people not to eat what they love. You build a business helping people to eat what they love, and more of it. It's about separating meat from animals. When you think of meat in terms of its components, it's five things—amino acids, lipids, trace minerals, vitamins, and water. None of that is exclusive to animals. Animals spend massive amounts of energy consuming plants to make protein. We start directly from the plant material [pea protein] and build from that." ~ Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat, in Time magazine interview, issue of June 17, 2019

2019/06/11 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Area being set up near the UCSB lagoon for graduation ceremonies Meme of the day: The wall that's falling apart and must be rebuilt (separation of church and state) Senator Bernie Sanders on the cover of 'Time' magazine, issue of June 17, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] End of the academic year: We are only on the second day of the finals week at UCSB, but work on setting up the seats and stage for graduation ceremonies has already begun, moving vans are seen near student residences, and graduation photo shoots are going on across the campus. [Center] Meme of the day: The wall that's falling apart and must be rebuilt. [Right] Bernie Sanders 2.0: Seeking a balance between plain Bernie, who participates in taking selfies and cracks jokes, and Senator Sanders, who recites facts and figures in support of his arguments.
(2) Hats off to Jon Stewart: Speaking on behalf of the 9/11 first-responders with serious health problems, Stewart blasts Congress for not showing up to the hearing.
(3) 'Seinfeld' fans, rejoice: Seth Meyers calls Trump 'The Kramer of International Diplomacy'! He barges into a room and says the most inappropriate thing possible!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some Chinese exporters are dodging US tariffs with fake "Made in Vietnam" labels.
- A $120 billion aerospace/defense giant will be created by merger of United Technologies and Raytheon.
- Trump's bull-in-the-china-shop approach to foreign policy has led to closer ties between Russia and China.
- A new astronomical discovery, by the greatest president ever: The Moon is part of Mars. [Tweet]
- Musical performances from the 2019 Tony Awards ceremeony: Eight YouTube videos, all in one place.
- Duck dancing to Azeri music! [1-minute video]
- Kurdish music: Dina performs a beautiful dance tune, "Destu Desmal" (4-minute video).
(5) Zelle, the digital payment service included in banking apps, has made it easier for scammers to divert funds from personal checking and savings accounts.
(6) NBA finals: The Golden State Warriors pulled off a miraculous 106-105 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Raptors to avoid elimination, but they lost Kevin Durant to injury and still face the nearly-impossible task of winning the two remaining games in the 2-3 series.
(7) A record-breaking performance in women's Soccer World Cup: After taking a comfortable 3-0 lead in the first half, USA demolished Thailand 13-0, with Alex Morgan scoring 5 goals. [5-minute highlights]

2019/06/09 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Religiosity seems to hamper innovation (from 'The Economist') Number of researchers per million inhabitants in different countries (from ChartsBin.com) (1) Two science/tech-related charts: [Left] Religiosity seems to hamper innovation (from The Economist). [Right] Number of researchers per million inhabitants in different countries (from ChartsBin.com).
(2) Director Abbas Kiarostami's old interview about the recently-disgraced former minister/mayor Mohammad-Ali Najafi shows that he was never the man he is made out to be.
(3) Exploration of a mountain cave in the western Iranian province of Luristan, hiding treasures from 2700 years ago. [3-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) Bad news and good news: An earlier story I posted told of a group of London teenagers who savagely beat up a lesbian couple, because they would not kiss for the teens' entertainment. The teenagers in this story rushed into a burning house to save a 90-year-old woman they did not know!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Despite incontrovertible evidence that the Earth is round, the Flat-Earth movement keeps growing!
- Here come the 2019 wildfires in the western United States! [ABC News report]
- Little-known facts about the great Persian poet Khayyam. [4-minute video]
- The Practicing Atheist: Hilarious sit-down comedy routine! [5-minute video]
- Put a Woman in Charge: A wonderful song, in English, with Persian subtitles. [4-minute video]
- Kurdish music: A song performed in the setting of a fabric/handicrafts shop with colorful offerings.
(6) Senator Chuck Schumer's sarcastic response to Trump's declaration of victory in the negotiations about illegal immigration with Mexico. [Tweet]
(7) Misplaced priorities: In this Persian tweet, a member of Iran's parliament from Tehran laments that people had celebrated Eid-e Fitr in the recreation area behind a dam in ways that he characterizes as norm-shattering (apparently, they engaged in swimming and dancing). I read around 100 of the comments under his post and did not see even one endorsement or positive reply. There are several comments to the effect that his very existence is norm-shattering, as are the parliament's ignoring many cases of corruption, while getting riled up about people enjoying themselves.
(8) Today's family gathering at my late-uncle Nouri's: More than a year after Nourollah Parhami's passing, my extended family got together with his family to reminisce and enjoy each other's company. A couple of verses of a longer poem I wrote for him (modified to be self-contained) appear on his gravestone. After dinner, my talented niece Mina played several pieces on the piano.

2019/06/08 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Quote of the day: US Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to AG William Barr Cartoon of the day: Visiting Mueller Island in some distant future Senator Chuck Schumer's sarcastic response to Trump's declaration of victory in the negotiations about illegal immigration with Mexico (1) Images of the day: [Left] Quote of the day: US Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to AG William Barr. [Center] Cartoon of the day: Visiting Mueller Island in some distant future. [Right] Senator Chuck Schumer's sarcastic response to Trump's declaration of victory in the negotiations about illegal immigration with Mexico.
(2) Can the Golden State Warriors, masters of come-backs, recover from a 1-3 NBA finals deficit by beating the inspired Toronto Raptors in three straight games? Historical data predicts that it's unlikely.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ohio doctor is accused of killing 25 patients: His motive is unknown at this time.
- Faux-News masterpiece: Laura Ingraham denies what Trump told her in front of millions of witnesses!
- Gay couple beaten up on a bus after they refuse to kiss for the sake of entertaining their male assailants.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Mexico agrees to pay for Trump's psychiatric care.
- On-line archive preserves Iranian women's lives and quiet resistance in late 19th & early 20th century.
- The joy of graduation: Photo taken at Goleta's San Marcos High School. (Credit: Santa Barbara News Press)
(4) At the end of spring-quarter classes: Pretty good weather ahead, as we head into the final-exams week, followed by graduation ceremonies and Fathers' Day, before greeting summer. [10-day weather forecast]
(5) The enigma of Mohammad Nourizad (my Facebook post, with Farsi text): He is a journalist who relentlessly criticizes the Iranian regime and the mullahs leading it. In this 8-minute video (in Persian), he goes further than before and directly accuses the ayatollahs of corruption and dirty deeds for preventing the Baha'i residents of a village in Kashan from producing and selling rose-water, their primary business and source of income for decades, if not centuries, confiscating their means of production and shuttering their primitive workshops/warehouses, with no explanation or accountability. Over the years, multiple religious leaders in Iran have issued fatwas that Baha'is are filthy and thus Muslims should not consume or even touch anything that they produce. Nourizad maintains that it is the mullahs who are filthy, because they oppress Iran's poor citizens and confiscate their property, while sending billions of dollars to Palestinians and Muslims in other countries. The "enigma" in my title arises from not understanding how such harsh criticisms go unpunished by the mullahs, who are more than happy to prescribe multi-decade prison terms for attorneys, journalists, and others engaged in much milder acts of opposition or civil disobedience. Some believe that Nourizad has immunized himself by becoming notorious, so that assassinating or imprisoning him will cause more trouble than letting him vent (he has been imprisoned before, though). Others consider him a tool that serves the regime by providing a safety valve or, worse, helping identify those who favor toppling the mullahs.

2019/06/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The tube-shaped endangered Mexican amphibian, the axolotl, which looks like a smiling fish with four legs A city council member in Shiraz, Iran, was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for defending two Baha'is in this tweet Tweet by Marzieh Ebrahimi about Iranian women's resistance (1) Images of the day: [Left] The ultimate self-healer: Those studying regenerative medicine are looking to a tube-shaped endangered Mexican amphibian, the axolotl, which looks like a smiling fish with four legs. It can regenerate a nearly-perfect replica of almost any body part it loses, including up to half its brain. (Source: ASEE Prism magazine, summer 2019) [Center] A city council member in Shiraz, Iran, was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for defending two Baha'is in this tweet. [Right] Tweet by Marzieh Ebrahimi: "I still walk in this city. I still pedal in Isfahan's beautiful Chahar-Bagh Avenue. And I laugh. Women have not been, are not, and will never be erasable."
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Who's benefiting from the US-China feud over Huawei? Samsung, for one!
- A dormant Russian volcano has woken up: A massive eruption may be in the offing.
- Google's doodle honoring the first day of women's 2019 Soccer World Cup. [Image]
- Is GPS ruining our brains? This Washington Post article argues that it is.
(3) Senior project presentations at UCSB Engineering Design Expo: The all-day program began with Computer Engineering project presentations in ESB 1001, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. The seven projects are listed below, in order of their presentation. Drones ruled this year, accounting for 4 of the 7 projects. [Photos] [The projects]
- 9:15 AM: Hands-On Flight (Oscar Wang, Alex Berlanga, Eduardo Olmos, Juan Reyes, Miguel Berlanga) Glove used to control the flight of a drone in an intuitive manner
- 9:35 AM: IEA Linguistics (Ryan Kirkpatrick, Dali Xiao, Dang Nguyen, Min Yang) Speech recognition and natural-language processing for user interface with an IC-manufacturing system
- 10:05 AM: Cloud Control (Andrew Thompson, Anna Lee, Brent Morada, Jair Carranza, Reed Taylor) Flying a drone over a target person, such as a distressed surfer, to maintain contact until help arrives
- 10:30: Drone Scout (Austin Hwang, Anthony Chen, Maga Kim, Sung In Kim) Collecting data on drones (e.g., size and speed) within a targeted area
- 10:50 AM: BLiPS (Matt Speck, Ahmed Saied, Amber Du, Kevin La) Tracking the movements of doctors and nurses in the operating-room environment
- 11:15 AM: Watchdog (Ryan Lorica, Anzhe Ye, Jiacheng Liu, Jingzhe Chen, Liqiang Mei) Use of AI to track and guide astronauts' actions when they are too far away for Earth-based tracking and control
- 11:30 AM: Eternal Flight (Aditya Wadaskar, Kyle Douglas, Richard Boone, Sang Min Oh, Sayali Kakade) System to allow in-flight swapping of drone batteries to extend flight time for remote missions
- 1:30 PM: Poster session, held in the open space between Campbell and Cheadle Halls: As the session was winding down, a group of students arrived to protest against Northrop-Grumman, one of the project sponsors, on account of its close ties with Saudi Arabia and other human-rights abusers around the world. [Photos]
- 3:30 PM: Two of the CE projects were chosen in the morning session for top awards. "Eternal Flight" won first prize ($2000) and "Hands-on Flight" came in second ($1250). I was charged with choosing one of the remaining projects for the "Best-Poster Award." The award went to "Cloud Control." In these photos, you see the winning poster & team, yours truly, capstone project course instructor, Dr. Yogananda (Yoga) Isukapalli, and one of the two TAs, Brandon Pon. The other TA was Carrie Segal.
- 4:00 PM: Brief EDx-style project pitches, video presentations, musical interludes, and presentation of awards concluded today's senior-projects day. [Photos]
- 5:00 PM: Isla Vista Elementary School students were excited to participate in the presentation of dancing robots as the finale of today's Engineering Design Showcase. [Video]

2019/06/06 (Thursday): Book review: Beard, Mary, S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome, unabridged audiobook, read by Phyllida Nash, Recorded Books, 2015. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Mary Beard's 'S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome' I first came across the abbreviation SPQR when I was setting up my research Web page, in which the four key aspects of my research program, that is, performance, quality, reliability, and scalability, as applied to the design of computer systems, was represented by the abbreviation PQRS. Doing an image search for 'PQRS' to find something to use for illustrating my Web page, I became aware that ancient Romans used SPQR as an abbreviation for "Senatus Populusque Romanus," which means "The Senate and People of Rome." So, when I saw the title of Beard's book, I had to peruse it!
Mary Beard is a well-known scholar in the UK. She is a professor of classics at Cambridge University, author of numerous books, and a regular commentator on TV and radio programs. In this book, which is both scholarly and accessible, Beard presents a nuanced historical perspective that pays attention to issues of class and the lives of various groups of people, aspects that are missing from other accounts of Roman history.
The history of Rome, that is, how a small township grew in influence until it dominated the entire Mediterranean region and beyond, has been told many times, from different perspectives. The duration of Rome's existence isn't totally clear. Many accounts trace the history for 10-12 centuries, from around 8th-7th century BCE to 3rd-4th century CE.
Beard begins with Rome's founding myth, involving the abandoned twins Romulus and Remus being fed by a lactating wolf, and continues through 212 CE, when Emperor Caracalla declared that all free inhabitants of the empire were considered Roman citizens. Beard's account includes the 2+ centuries of Rome being ruled by kings, before transforming into a republic for about 5 centuries, and, later, becoming the Roman Empire just before the Christian era.
Throughout the three phases of its existence, Rome came close to falling several times. Beard tells us about what caused the near-collapses and how Rome recovered from them. We need more of this kind of history book that tell us not just what happened but how the events were inter-related and what consequences they carried.

2019/06/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A beautiful, serene, and vastly underutilized outdoor area next to UCSB's Student Resource Building Persian poetry: A couplet from Khayyam on the futility of wishing someone ill This object, recently unearthed in Iran, is believed to be part of an Egyptian king's statue (1) Images of the day: [Left] A beautiful, serene, and vastly underutilized outdoor area next to UCSB's Student Resource Building. [Center] Persian poetry: A couplet from Khayyam on the futility of wishing someone ill. [Right] This object, unearthed in southwestern Iran, is believed to be part of an Egyptian king's statue.
(2) Quote of the day: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." ~ Rumi
(3) IEEE issues guidelines to its members and volunteers on dealing with the updated US Bureau of Industry and Security's expanded "Entity List," which now includes Huawei and 68 of its affiliates. [PDF document]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Leader of the world's sole superpower picked a fight with Bette Midler during a major foreign trip.
- New Yorker cartoon: "Sorry, Mr. President. I'm afraid D Day has nothing to do with your name."
- UCLA Engineering is gifted $100 million by Henry and Susan Samueli for faculty/programs expansion.
- A month after arrest of 3 Baha'is in Semnan, Iran, there's no news about their conditions or whereabouts.
- The unbearable beauty of women singing for Iran's mullahs. Ole! [Cartoon] [Credit: Iranwire.com]
- Instrumental music: A couple of popular Italian oldies played by three people on a foot-keyboard piano.
- "The higher you climb in life, the more ridiculous your hats will become." ~ Charlie Day's words of wisdom
(5) Resources on the moon that are fueling a race among advanced countries to colonize it: Silicon; Rare earths; Titanium; Aluminum; Water; Precious metals; Helium-3.
(6) Talk about income redistribution (socialism): US individual taxpayers paid $93 billion more in taxes during 2018, while corporations got a tax break of $91 billion as a result of Trump's tax "reform."
(7) Royal gift: Queen Elizabeth II gave Trump an abridged (single-volume) first edition of Churchill's The Second World War: Was there a hidden message in her gift choice?
(8) Son Jarocho Ensemble: After missing spring quarter's series of noon music concerts (World Music Series) because of time conflict, I caught the tail end of the last performance for 2018-2019 due to my class ending early and the concert being longer than usual. [5-minute video]

2019/06/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Graffiti on a wall along Tehran's Vali-asr Street, in protest to mandatory hijab laws Queen Elizabeth II with Presidents Obama and Trump (1) Images of the day: [Left] Graffiti on a wall along Tehran's Vali-asr Street, in protest to forced veiling. [Center] Supply your own narrative: Two American presidents on state visits to the UK, presented side by side. (P.S.: QE II has met with 11 of the last 12 US presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson being the only one not to have visited her.) [Right] Street artist JR's installation on the southern side of the US-Mexico border wall.
(2) Quote of the day: "People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take." ~ Emma Goldman
(3) Iranian music: This song is in a regional Iranian dialect that I don't understand, but it is reminiscent of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" in the way it recites names of politicians and other famous people.
(4) Shortsightedness to the extreme: Since Trump took office, there have been some 50 completed rollbacks of environmental regulations, with another three dozens in progress.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Today marks 30 years since Chinese troops opened fire on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
- "Sleepy," "low-energy" Trump caught nodding off during Queen Elizabeth II's speech at a state dinner.
- Hope Hicks: The first former Trump aide to defy his non-compliance directive and offer to cooperate.
- Shostakovich's Waltz No. 2 (flashmob): 11 minutes of comedic build-up, followed by 5 minutes of music.
- Persian Music: A song by Gholam-Hossein Banan, accompanied by historic photographs of his life.
(6) Parallelism destruction and extraction: Mathematical problems often possess a great deal of explicit parallelism. Coding the problem in a conventional high-level language kills the parallelism by introducing artificial sequentiality. Compilers typically recover some of the parallelism when they build the computation's data-flow graph as an aid to translation. Again, the generated machine code kills the exposed parallelism. Finally, out-of-order CPUs salvage some of the destroyed parallelism by hardware-level dependence analysis within the instruction-issue logic. What a wasteful way to go about exploiting parallelism for performance enhancement! An article in Communications of the ACM, issue of June 2019 (by Tony Nowatzki, Vinay Gangadhar, and Karthikeyan Sankaralingam, with a synopsis/intro by Rishiyur S. Nikhil) proposes the design of a hybrid von-Neumann/dataflow microprocessor to preserve explicit parallelism, from the application domain to hardware environment. [Chart]

2019/06/03 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme on the problem of fake super-patriotism in the US Meme on those who think everyone lies but Trump Gilbert Hill: Mumbai's 66-million-year-old natural high-rise smack in the middle of a suburb (1) Images of the day: [Left] The problem of fake super-patriotism in the US had been diagnosed a long time ago. How can anyone love a country while hating 93% of its residents? [Center] It's sort of like the drunk wrong-way driver who thought everyone else was driving the wrong way! [Right] Gilbert Hill: Mumbai's 66-million-year-old natural high-rise smack in the middle of a suburb.
(2) This morning's local news in Santa Barbara: I received a Twitter alert this morning about KEYT News being broadcast live on Twitter and Facebook. They had audio problems in the studio, which they could not resolve immediately. So, the news crew took out their cell phones and began broadcasting the news and weather, along with some behind-the-scenes images and interviews. The weather person walked in front of the green screen she normally uses and went to her computer screens to present the forecast. [Screen shots]
(3) Campus Point at UCSB: This is my favorite spot on campus to have a bag-lunch or to take a rejuvenating break. The peace and quiet, along with views of the campus lagoon and the ocean, are wonderful. Today, I discovered an out-of-the-way equipment rental trailer, which is open on weekdays and weekends, including throughout the summer. And here is a panoramic photo, shot from UCSB's Campus Point parking lot, looking toward Goleta Beach Park and Goleta Pier. [Interactive] [Static]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Studying underground ant colonies, with their intricate architectures, ventilation routes, and superhighways.
- The amazing Lyrebird from Australia masters fairly complicated songs in its attempt to attract females.
- Old timers (photo, left to right): Dick Van Dyke, 93; Carl Reiner, 97; Mel Brooks, 92; Norman Lear, 96.
- An impressive 4-player performance of "Despacito" on a foot-keyboard piano. [3-minute video]
(5) UCSB students testing their drone outside the main Engineering Building: They are likely getting ready for Capstone Project Day on Friday, June 7, 2019. This particular drone has a battery hanging under its belly. It can land on a special platform, where a new battery slides in, pushing the old one out, so the drone can continue to fly around with no need for human intervention. [1-minute video]
(6) RIP, iTunes: Having defined music and helping Apple rise to most-valuable-company status, for all practical purposes iTunes is dead, becoming a victim of its uncontrolled expansion and cluttered design.

2019/06/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The US women's soccer team headed to the 2019 Women's Soccer World Cup: Time magazine cover The US women's soccer team headed to the 2019 Women's Soccer World Cup: Groups for preliminary round The US women's soccer team headed to the 2019 Women's Soccer World Cup: Ball and logo (1) The US women's soccer team is set to defend its 2015 world title in the upcoming Women's Soccer World Cup, to be held in France over a month, June 7 to July 7, 2019. US team's matches will be on Friday, June 11 (v. Thailand, 3:00 PM, on Fox), Sunday, June 16 (v. Chile, 12:00 PM, on Fox), Thursday, June 20 (v. Sweden, 3:00 PM, on Fox); and more, if the team advances past the preliminary rounds. All times are US Eastern.
(2) Child labor, child poverty, and other injustices are facts of life in our world today, but are we really powerless to do something about them? [2-minute video]
(3) College students running on empty: The summer 2019 issue of ASEE Prism magazine includes a cover feature about college students' food insecurity problem and engineering solutions to it. I will post a direct link to the story, if and when it becomes available on-line. [Cover image] [ASEE Prism on-line]
(4) University of California bans the use of the active ingredient found in Monsanto weed-killers Roundup and Ranger, and hundreds of other herbicides, on all of its 10 campuses.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tweet of the week: Playing "Taboo," Mueller says "impeach" without using the word! [Tweet image]
- Humor: Trump rushed off stage after Secret Service spot man carrying photo of John McCain! [Photo]
- The Golden State Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors 109-104 to even up the NBA finals series 1-1.
- Eight kids were declared joint winners of Spelling Bee 2019, after the judges ran out of challenging words.
- Barack Obama has been the most admired man in the world for 11 straight years, 2008-2018.
- Journalist Maad al-Zekri, first from Yemen to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, denied entry into the US.
(6) Despite an audio recording of Trump calling Meghan Markle "nasty," after learning that she will not meet with him during his visit to England, he claims he did not say it and blames the fake-news media!
(7) Scientific impact of trade wars: The China Computer Federation has suspended its collaboration with the publications division of IEEE over US-China disputes regarding Huawei Technologies.

2019/05/31 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
 Cartoon: Mr. Mueller teaches Logic 101 to Americans and their spineless representatives! Cartoon: A Turkish serial for cats! Cartoon: 'There was a concern that it was reminding the President of John McCain.' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Mr. Mueller teaches Logic 101 to Americans and their spineless representatives! [Center] Just out: A Turkish serial for cats! [Right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "There was a concern that it was reminding the President of John McCain."
(2) Announcing the next IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk (free event): Dr. B. S. Manjunath (Distinguished Professor of ECE at UCSB) will speak about "Computer Vision, Deep Learning, and Big Data: Opportunities and Challenges" on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at Rusty's Pizza (big meeting room, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta, CA 93117; food/beverages at 6:00 PM, talk at 6:30 PM). [Flyer]
(3) US businesses are against tariffs: They have developed highly-tuned markets and supply chains that keep them going. Trade isn't a set of abstract numbers that you can change at will. It's an intricate network of relationships with consumers, suppliers, and middlemen worldwide.
(4) A touching tribute to old-time Iranian musician Samin Baghtcheban and his wife Evelyn, major contributors to opera-style Persian music, both of whom died in self-imposed exile in Turkey. [12-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mass shooting in Virginia Beach leaves 12 dead: Thoughts & prayers, or actions & legislation this time?
- Trump suggested in a March 2019 tweet that SNL is colluding with the Democrats and Russia!
- At Harvard, Angela Merkel speaks at length about Trump, without ever mentioning his name.
- America Ferrera's TED talk on her career obstacles, as she was forced into stereotypical Latina roles.
- First flying vehicle will use hydrogen fuel cells for powering its multiple rotors.
- SNL alum Nasim Pedrad is bringing the Iranian-American experience to TV in a new sitcom.
(6) Trump considers "impeachment," one of the safeguards thoughtfully included in the US Constitution, a filthy word. So are "checks" and "balances," I suppose!
(7) The roots of a Kurdish expression: An article entitled "The Eternal Fire at Baba Gurgur" caught my attention, because growing up, I had heard my parents (born and raised in Iran's Kurdistan region) use the expression "baba gurgur" to refer to a strong or resilient individual, who cannot be shaken by hardship or misfortune. A large oil field near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, famous for the Eternal Fire burning at its center, Baba Gurgur (literally "Father of Fire") was the largest-known oil field in the world, from its discovery in 1927 until losing the title to Saudi Arabia's Ghawar Field in 1948. The estimated 4000-year lifespan of the Eternal Fire may be why "Baba Gurgur" is used as a metaphor for strength, resilience, and longevity.

2019/05/30 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Small section of a 107 x 16 ft. San Francisco mural by street artist JR Fashion design with help from nature 'New Yorker' cartoon of the day: 'I swear, if he continues to do that, I will strongly consider beginning proceedings to do something, as soon as it becomes politically tenable.' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Displayed on interconnected screens, this 107 × 16 ft. mural (only a small section shown here) by street artist JR portrays many layers of San Franciscans, from millionaires to the homeless, and how they have become invisible to each other. [Center] Fashion design with help from nature. [Right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "I swear, if he continues to do that, I will strongly consider beginning proceedings to do something, as soon as it becomes politically tenable."
(2) Quote of the day: "When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand." ~ Henri Nouwen
(3) Putting profits ahead of public safety: Why can't a technologically advanced country with a stellar record of innovation eliminate the possibility of injuries from baseballs hitting spectators?
(4) The gender gap no one wants closed: Girls contemplate suicide more often, but boys die from suicide far more regularly. An annual increase of 13% in suicide rate among girls ages 10-14, is narrowing the gap. [Source: Time magazine, issue of June 3/10, 2019]
(5) The "Yes, ... but" defense: The story of a former Iranian minister/mayor, Mohammad-Ali Najafi, shooting his fairly young second wife to death in the bathroom is all over news and social-media headlines/posts about Iran. There are many speculations about every element of the story: The evils of polygamy; An apparently respected older official going mad over a passionate relationship; A gold-digger getting what was coming to her; Framing of a reformist politician by his hard-liner opponents; Najafi's "explanation" that he was only trying to scare his wife, when the gun accidentally went off; And many more. I am against trying offenders in the (social) media, so I leave the determination of Najafi's guilt and punishment to the judiciary (though I must add that I have zero respect for, and trust in, Iranian courts). What prompted me to write this post are many Iranian ex-pats taking the side of Najafi, because they knew him as a professor, colleague, or friend. The prototypical defense goes like this: "Yes, murder is bad, but ... " (e.g., the woman was no angel either). A murder victim is a victim, regardless of her moral character. Furthermore, killing a woman over her perceived wrongdoings is misogynistic, regardless of the circumstances, especially when she had suffered domestic violence as well. I have written in the past that terrorism should be condemned in no uncertain terms. Murder is the same. Other than in self-defense, there is no situation in which murder isn't an abhorrent crime. Please discuss your ifs/buts separately, if you must: Don't let them dilute your condemnation of the act of murder.

2019/05/29 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's southern city of Khorramshahr, 37 years after it was reclaimed during the Iran-Iraq War Iranian women, young and old, continue their non-violent acts of civil disobedience against mandatory hijab laws How Iran's police treats people: A protesting worker and a murderous former minister/mayor (1) Iran-related images: [Left] Iran's southern city of Khorramshahr, 37 years after it was reclaimed during the Iran-Iraq War (Iranwire.com pictorial). [Center] Iranian women, young and old, continue their non-violent acts of civil disobedience against mandatory hijab laws. [Right] How Iran's police treats people: A protesting worker (top) and a former minister/mayor who has confessed to murdering his second wife (bottom).
(2) We are paying for Trump's tariff wars twice: Once through higher prices for products subject to tariffs and again through government handouts to businesses impacted by tariffs. [Source: Los Angeles Times]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- White House requested that the warship USS John S. McCain be out of sight during Trump's Japan visit!
- Mueller finally speaks: He is resigning from DoJ and will have nothing more to say on his Russia Probe.
- Former mayor of Tehran kills his second wife, who was on the verge of giving a damning interview.
- All-girls robotics team from Ghana wins the World Robofest Championship, held in Michigan in mid-May.
(4) "How to Win the Fight Against Gun Violence": This was the title of an interesting and important UCSB talk by Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. [Images] [Web site]
Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Throughout the talk, Ms. Thomas presented interesting facts about gun violence and forces that support the status quo, making the US by far the worst country in terms of deaths caused by guns. Some 40,000 Americans died from gun violence in 2017, the highest number in nearly four decades. There are 350 million guns in private hands in the US. A gun in a home is 22 times more likely to be used against someone at that home than for self-defense. Women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to guns. American children are 16 times more likely to be killed by guns than children in any other developed country.
Interestingly, mass shootings, which get more media attention than other gun-related deaths, form a small part of the problem. Suicides, homicides by intimate partners, and urban gun violence account for many more deaths. The NRA, which was formed as a gun-safety and gun-education entity but has since become the mouthpiece of gun manufacturers, broadly opposes any kind of legislation, proposing instead that the solution is to arm more people.
Progress in enacting sensible gun laws (background checks, restrictions on military-style assault weapons, safety requirements, training, etc.) has been slow. Things are changing though. The second bill taken up by the new Congress was a gun-control bill. When Ms. Thomas testified in front of the Congress in February, she found the atmosphere much friendlier and supportive of gun legislation, in no small part due to the new crop of representatives who have become sensitized to the problem of gun violence by events in recent years (including shootings of and by police officers).
I end this report with a light aside: When a questioner asked whether Ms. Thomas agrees with the proposal to train and arm teachers (she does not), a gentleman jokingly interjected that in the university setting, arming of teaching assistants (many of whom were in attendance) should be considered instead!
[P.S.: In an embarrassment of riches, I had to choose between this talk and a concurrent one in an adjacent building, KITP's 73rd Annual Public Lecture, delivered by Wojciech Hubert Zurek under the title "Quantum Theory of the Classical," dealing with the question of why quantum theory that rules the nature results in a familiar "classical reality" we find quite persuasive, given the immediacy of our perceptions.]

2019/05/28 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of 'Understanding Nanotechnology (1) Book review: Editors of Scientific American, Understanding Nanotechnology, Warner Books, 2002.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this imminently accessible book (even for younger readers), a number of scientists write chapters on scientific notions and technology topics comprising the important field of nanotechnology. Even though the field has come a long way since 2002, this book is still useful for learning about the fundamentals of a branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of less than 100 nanometers, which is 200-1000 times the diameter of an atom.
The book's table of contents follows.
Foreword: Understanding Nanotechnology; Introduction (p. 1); Little Big Science (p. 6); Plenty of Room, Indeed (p. 18); The Art of Building Small (p. 36); Less Is More in Medicine (p. 56); Making Molecules into Motors (p. 72); Nanobot Construction Crews (p. 86); The Incredible Shrinking Circuit (p. 92); Machine-Phase Nanotechnology (p. 104); Computing with Molecules (p. 110); Nanotubes for Electronics (p. 124); Conclusion (p. 139)
Cover image of 'Easy American Idioms (2) Course review: The Living Language Method, Easy American Idioms, Random House, 2008. [My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads]
Idioms such as "Bite the bullet" and "Don't fly off the handle" are used extensively in conversational American English. They make the language colorful and natural-sounding, but they can be quite confusing to non-native speakers. In this well-thought-out course, hundreds of idioms are presented in groups, by first having the students listen to a conversation that contains a particular group of idioms and then asking them to provide the appropriate idioms in particular contexts.
I found it interesting that, whereas I could understand nearly all of the idioms presented, I don't use very many of them in my own speech. This might be quite natural for someone who has learned English as the second language. However, hearing the idioms explicitly and collectively will no doubt help me in their application.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In Japan, Trump downplays North Korea's missile launches and embraces their insult on Joe Biden.
- Overcrowded Mount Everest continues to take victims: Death toll for 2019 reaches 11.
- Mass-stabbing of school girls at a bus stop in Kawasaki, Japan, leaves 2 dead and 16 injured.
- Perfectly-timed photo: Cat with antlers. [Photo]
- Hybrid and other interesting fruit species. [4-minute video]
- Laminar flow: When water flows smoothly with no turbulence or interference, it looks like it's frozen.
(4) Quote of the day: "My hearings were not televised, and on the first morning, five minutes after I'd been introduced, they started asking questions. Now the first day is consumed by statements by the Senators about how important the hearings are." ~ Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 99, on SCOTUS confirmation hearings
(5) UCSB Computer Engineering Program Capstone Project Presentations: Friday, June 7, 2019 (talks at ESB Room 1001, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM; posters at Campbell Hall Courtyard, 1:30-3:00 PM). I am looking forward to my role as the "best poster" judge.

2019/05/27 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Memorial Day: US flags installation at UCSB, next to Storke Tower Neo-Arameic-speaking region located in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey Arameic-speaking Kurdish women (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Memorial Day: UCSB observes this important day of courage and sacrifice with an installation that contains one flag for every 2000 of the 1.4 million individuals who have given their lives in service to our nation. [Center & Right] Professor Geoffrey Khan lecturing on Neo-Arameic language dialects and Neo-Arameic-speaking Kurdish women (see the last item below).
(2) Quote of the day: "I didn't mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you're adults now, and this is an actual crisis." ~ Bill Nye, urging everyone to take climate change more seriously
(3) It's sad that we find adversarial leaders' opinions more palpable than our own leaders': "If someone thinks their own race and civilization is superior and insists on remolding or replacing other civilizations, it would be a stupid idea and disastrous act." ~ Xi Jinping, President of China
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Severe weather in central US claims 10th victim in a week and causes billions in damage. [Image]
- Trump downplays North Korea's missile launches and embraces their insult on Joe Biden during Japan visit.
- An interesting upcoming lecture at UCSB: "How to Win the Fight Against Gun Violence in America" [Flyer]
- Playful whales and dolphins filmed in the Pacific Ocean. [1-minute video]
(5) Jews of Kurdistan and their language (continued): I have written before about my long-standing interest in tracing the roots of the Parhami family in Iran's Kurdistan region. This pursuit is currently on the back-burner due to many other projects, and I may have to wait for retirement to make progress! A chance meeting and conversation with a fellow Jewish Kurd at the UCLA film screening of 5/19 rekindled my interest and prompted me to pursue a few leads that she provided. Geoffrey Khan (U. Cambridge) has written a 4-volume book, The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Assyrian Christians of Urmi. The language of my ancestors in Iran's Kurdistan is one of the extinct or near-extinct dialects of Arameic. The existence of hundreds of dialects is a sign of the language's antiquity, according to Khan.
[81-minute lecture by Khan] [61-minute lecture by Yona Sabar and Ariel Sabar on Jews of Kurdistan]

2019/05/25 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian poetry: Sa'adi poem about a man needing two lives, one for gaining experience and one for using it The great Persian poet Sa'adi: Worry about matters that can create endless joy. It's silly to pursue pleasures that turn into sorrow Persian poetry: Sa'adi isn't the first name that comes to mind when thinking of love poems, but he has some of the most beautiful and tender romantic poems (1) Persian poetry: A few wonderful verses by Sa'adi, bearing life advice and praise for his beloved.
(2) On robot locomotion: This 3-minute video was suggested by my colleague, Dr. Katie Byl, who gave a very interesting talk entitled "Mesh-based Tools to Analyze Deep Reinforcement Learning Policies for Underactuated Biped Locomotion" for IEEE Central Coast Section on May 15, 2019. The video contains an enchanting set of animations from DeepMind linked to the ideas in the arXiv paper entitled "Emergence of Locomotion Bahviours in Rich Environments." [IEEE CCS Technical Talks Web page]
(3) Poetic justice: Merrick Garland (Obama nominee for SCOTUS, who never got a hearing for confirmation) has been assigned to handle Trump's appeal over his financial records.
(4) "Lock Her Up" 2.0: Trump rally crowds now chant "Lock Them Up," alluding to allegations of spying/treason against the FBI. Or, maybe, they are referring to the Trump family!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's recent statements, fact-checked by Associated Press: Not that facts matter for his supporters!
- John Urschel, who carried a 4.0 GPA at Penn State, gave up his NFL career for a PhD, and life, in math.
- A Colorado road is closed due to rock slides bringing boulders the size of buildings onto the road.
- New York City's Times Square, as it was 107 years ago. [3-minute video]
- Architectural masterpiece by Zaha Hadid: Library and Learning Center at Vienna University of Economics.
(6) Iranian political prisoners are threatened with harsher sentences if they talk to the media and some dual-citizen hostages are offered leneancy if they agree to spy for Iran. [Source: Iranwire.com]
(7) Selling democracy: "Nearly three decades after the Cold War's end, it's no longer clear that American-style liberal democracy has carried the day." ~ Ian Bremmer, writing in Time magazine, issue of May 27, 2019
(8) Donald Trump Jr. has landed a book deal (a fiction title, I assume), so Twitter users are having fun with suggested book titles, such as: Pride and Extreme Prejudice; The Tax Man Cometh; Coward's End; A Fail in Two Cities; Malice in Blunderland; Collusion Runs Through It.
(9) The problem with news apps: Content creators are yet to recognize the problems caused by headlines being cut short due to limited screen space. This is reminiscent of "prefix codes" in computer science, that is, variable-length codes with no codeword being a prefix of any other codeword, ensuring correct decoding. Here, no misleading headline should be a prefix of the composed headline! In other words, the main point of the headline should be made with its first few words. Here are a few extreme examples of truncated headlines.

2019/05/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Beautiful nature: Jungle, seen from the ground up Chalk paintings: Santa Barbara will hold the 33rd edition of its iMadonnari Italian Street-Painting Festival on May 25-27, 2019 Brilliant art: Colorful pencil sculpture by Molly Gambardella (1) Images of the day: [Left] Beautiful nature: Jungle, seen from the ground up. [Center] Chalk paintings: Santa Barbara will hold the 33rd edition of its iMadonnari Italian Street-Painting Festival on May 25-27, 2019, at the historic Santa Barbara Mission. [Right] Brilliant art: Colorful pencil sculpture by Molly Gambardella.
(2) French mathematician Michael Rao completes the solution to century-old problem of classifying convex pentagons, and therefore all convex polygons, that tile the plane.
(3) Mile-wide asteroid and its tiny moon will zoom past Earth at a distance of 3 million miles this weekend.
[I had a concern that the asteroid's moon would tumble to our Earth, given the Earth's much larger gravity, so I did the following back-of-the-envelop calculation: Earth's diameter is about 8000 miles, so, assuming identical densities, it is 8000^3 = 0.5 × 10^12 times heavier than the asteroid. Animation in the news story shows the asteroid's moon to be at a distance of about 1 mile from it. The ratio of the distances squared is thus 3,000,000^2 = 9 × 10^12. The latter figure is much larger than the ratio of the masses, so we are safe! Had the asteroid been passing at a distance of 0.5 million miles, say, then a more precise calculation, involving exact distances and densities would have been warranted. For comparison, Earth's moon is about 0.25 × 10^6 miles from it. A related interesting question is whether Earth's gravity will slightly change the tiny moon's orbit around the asteroid.]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Parcel-bomb explosion in Lyon, France, injures 13. A cyclist was seen leaving the parcel outside a bakery.
- Cartoon of the day: "Not again, again. And again. And again. ... ad infinitum!" [Image]
- Most new GM cars will be able to download software upgrades over the Internet by 2023.
- Founders of Twitter likely didn't envisage it as a medium for countries threatening each other with war!
(5) SpaceX deploys 60 Starlink satellites: Launched on a single Falcon 9 rocket, whose reusable first stage was successfully recovered on a drone ship, the satellites form the beginning of a space-based worldwide broadband Internet service that will provide a steady funding source for the company.
(6) The problem of the last 50 feet: Use of driver-less delivery vehicles faces the final challenge of getting the package from the vehicle to the customer's door-step. Ford plans to solve this problem with an android capable of carrying a 40-pound load.

2019/05/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken thingss: Example 7 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 4 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 1 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 6 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 8 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 2 (1) Half-dozen funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things.
(2) Temper tantrum: "I won't work with Democrats until they stop investigating me." How is that "putting America first"? It's more like taking American interests hostage to escape prosecution for fraud!
(3) Trump on Rex Tillerson, upon appointing him as SoS and after firing him in a tweet:
- "[Tillerson has] tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics ... one of the truly great business leaders of the world."
- "Tillerson, a man who is 'dumb as a rock' and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State."
(4) News headline of the day: "Boeing officials suggest faulty sensor data unlikely to cause another 737 Max crash." Really? Unlikely? How reassuring!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tornadoes cause serious damage in Missouri and other parts of the US Midwest.
- Movements to boycott states which enact ultra-restrictive abortion laws are afoot.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks efforts to pass election-security bills.
- Cartoon of the day: Iranians have to fight on two fronts. [Image]
- Did you know that Bulgaria, Chile, and Iraq guarantee paid maternal leave? [Source: Time magazine]
- Recent history of Iran, as played out on the cover of Time magazine. [2-minute video]
(6) "Men Allies for Gender Equity": I wrote about attending this workshop on May 9, 2019. I have now received two files, holding the workshop handouts (higher quality than what I had posted using cell-phone photos) and PowerPoint presentation slides by Roger Green and Robert Gordon (credit for both goes to NDSU).
(7) Fifth anniversary of the Isla Vista massacre: Five years ago today, six UCSB students became the victims of what is sometimes referred to as "toxic masculinity." A young man, who was distraught over not being able to get dates and also harbored White-Supremacist tendencies, killed three male friends (engineering students) and three other students, two women and one man, and injured more than a dozen. I wore the T-shirt I was given on the first anniversary of this dark event and visited a memorial next to Storke Tower that celebrates the lives of the six victims and displays photos and notes. [Photos]

2019/05/22 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Gray is okay: Women taking pride in their roots A family's sculptures made of stones The selfie craze does not recognize political, cultural, or age differences (1) Images of the day: [Left] Gray is okay: Martha Truslow Smith, whose first gray strands showed up at age 14, urges women to take pride in their roots (image from AARP Magazine, May 2019). [Center] Stone family (source: Sculplovers). [Right] The selfie craze does not recognize political, cultural, or age differences.
(2) For my Persian-speaking readers: A heartfelt and well-written essay, by Dr. Hossein Kamaly, about the meanings of Iran and Iranophilia, as Iranians face oppression from inside and saber-rattling from outside.
(3) I was planning to see Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not a Film" tomorrow night at UCSB's Pollock Theater, but the screening was abruptly cancelled, with no explanation. I wonder if it was sanctions-related.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's plan to pardon US troops accused of war crimes is opposed by senior military leaders.
- NK's official news agency attacks Joe Biden as 'fool of low IQ,' seeming to side with the real dumb fool!
- US House bill seeks to preserve NASA's legacy Earth-science programs facing elimination.
- A passionate defense of tech, despite all its excesses and mistakes.
- Activists continuing the work of Jamal Khashoggi targeted by the Saudi regime. [Source: Time magazine]
- Sign at SB rally against abortion restrictions: "If you cut off my Reproductive Choice, can I cut off yours?"
- Meanwhile, in one of those every-life-is-precious states. [Meme about hypocrisy]
- New Yorker cartoon of the day: "Just refuse to step down. That's how I'd do it." [Image]
- Giant-Impact Hypothesis: A Mars-size body struck the proto-Earth, giving it water and creating the Moon.
- The singer at this wonderful street concert in the Iranian town of Abyaneh has been summoned to court!
- Cartoon of the day about Iran: "As I was saying, it's a sin for women to ride bicycles ..." [Image]
- "Ancient Iran and the Classical World": May 29 (at UCLA) and May 30 (at Getty Villa). [Poster] [Program]
(5) Extreme heat-shielding: The Parker Solar Probe is on a 7-year mission to collect massive amounts of data about our Sun. It has completed its second fly-by at a distance of 6M km (the previous-closest had been 43M km). Heat-shielding to protect the Probe and its on-board equipment, including solar cells that provide it with power, is of utmost importance. The probe got its energy from solar cells in the normal way when it was far from the sun, but now that it is so close, it protects the cells by tilting them so that most of the cells are behind its heat shield. Only a small patch of cells, that is well-cooled, remains exposed to the sun. [Images]

2019/05/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 3 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 1 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 2 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 5 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 4 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 6 (1) Half-dozen photos showcasing our planet's amazing nature.
(2) The Art of Science: Exhibit at SB Museum of Art, May 20 to June 20, 2019, with Artists Reception on Wednesday, May 22, 5:00-7:00 PM.
(3) Iranian women shine in Karate at the world level: They win two gold medals, despite the fact that they have to fight on two fronts (against the mullahs and on the mat). In this Facebook post, Mehdi Fallahi presents a sample of religious edicts against women competing in sports (in Persian).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump very upset over his lover (Fox News) cheating with Dems (Sanders, Buttigieg)!
- Book introduction and announcement of book talk at UCLA on May 22, 2019, from 4:00 to 6:00 PM.
- Continued fall of Iran's currency has led to the doubling of prices for basic goods.
- Nothing riles the joyless Iranian mullahs as much as people, stressed as they are these days, dancing!
- Iran, according to two-dozen photos from a Bosnian tourist. [Pictorial]
- WhatsApp has urged updating apps ASAP due to possible injected into it by exploiting a security flaw.
Graphic designs showing showing the possibility of armed conflict between the US and Iran (5) Iranian-Americans are more divided than ever: The prospects of the US waging war on Iran has widened the gap, already significant due to incompatible political views, to alarming levels. Most Iranian-Americans are anti-war, although their involvement remains at the "empty pacifism" level, to borrow a phrase from journalist Roya Hakakian, consisting of changing their profile pictures and posting "No War with Iran" memes. Others think that war is the only way of getting rid of the mullahs, who have grown thick roots after being in power for four decades. This group seems unconcerned that along with the mullahs (the most prominent of whom may actually go into hiding with their billions of dollars in personal wealth), tens of thousands of innocent Iranians may be killed. They view such deaths as a necessary sacrifice on the road to a free Iran, although, residing comfortably in the West and away from the conflict zone, they aren't the ones to make the sacrifice. Civil disobedience, from street music/dance performances to walking hijab-less in public, is at an all-time high, which gives one hope of toppling the regime without a blood-bath. Regardless of the fate of the brutal regime, I wonder if we will ever recover from the discord that it has caused among us.
(6) A stroll in Old-Town Goleta: As I awaited the completion of routine service on my car this morning (they now text you when the work is done or to seek authorization for extra work), I walked on Hollister Avenue, toward Fairview. This area is home to the very first Hamburger Habit and many shuttered businesses. My favorite Chinese restaurant, the family-run Red Pepper, located just off Hollister, has also announced permanent closure due to health problems. [Photos]

2019/05/20 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The seeds of continued resistance to mandatory hijab law have been sown! A waterfall in Iran Persian-style courtyard and fish pond (1) Iran-related images: [Left] The seeds of continued resistance to mandatory hijab law have been sown! [Center] A waterfall in Iran. [Right] Persian-style courtyard and fish pond.
(2) An anniversary of sorts: The book Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman traces the beginning of World War I to events occurring in the morning of May 20, 1910 (109 years ago). [Facebook post, in Persian]
(3) I thought my daughter and future granddaughters will have it easy, because we fought for women's rights, but they may have to start from square one. [Meme]
(4) Suspicious financial transactions: "Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump's now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity." [New York Times story]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This is America, nearly two decades into the 21st century! [Photos]
- The "life-valuing" Alabama is near-worst in infant survival and child development. [Meme]
- Finally, a Republican Congressman (Justin Amash) calls for Trump's impeachment. [Tweet]
- Does the Earth have a heartbeat? Yes, it does: Billions and billions, actually! [Meme]
- On women having a choice: The notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg always says it best. [Meme/Quote]
- Artist Alex Gordon at work: Portrait in black and white. [1-minute video]
(6) Quote of the day: "I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up on where you draw the line that we've gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line and I trust women to draw the line when it's their own health." ~ Pete Buttigieg, on how late an abortion should be allowed
(7) "Emoji: Lingua Franca or Passing Fancy?": This is the title of an interesting article in the May 2019 issue of IT Professional. The author, George F. Hurlburt provides a timeline of how emojis came about in the course of human communication (we all know that the very first one was the smiley icon in 1963). Among the more interesting facets are the facts that there is a Unicode Emoji Standard, an Emoji Encyclopedia, and the entire Moby Dick written in emoji (Emoji Dick).

2019/05/19 (Sunday): Following is my report on a film screening and discussion at UCLA this afternoon.
Screening of the documentary film 'Poets of Life' at UCLA: Rakhshan Banietemad, with Nayereh Tohidi Screening of the documentary film 'Poets of Life' at UCLA: Flyer Screening of the documentary film 'Poets of Life' at UCLA: A shot of the audience Held in Room 121 of Dodd Hall on the UCLA campus this afternoon, the screening of "Poets of Life" and the subsequent discussion with the film's artistic consultant, Rakhshan Banietemad, moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (CSUN), was well-attended. The list of film director Banietemad's honors is extensive and includes recognitions by more than 50 international film festivals. As a side note, this event ended the 15th year of UCLA's wonderful lecture series on Iran.
To me, this event was more than just the screening of a single film; it was exposure to an important film series that not only portrays independent and self-made job creators in Iran but also introduces a new model of independent film-making. Banietemad mentioned that more than two-dozen individuals had been identified for portrayal (from among a much larger pool of candidates), but that only seven documentaries have been made so far: three 90-minute feature films and four 45-minute films (see the list and 9-minute video at the end of this report). She also noted that the Karestan project is itself a fine example of the job-creating endeavors portrayed in its documentaries.
Today's film, "Poets of Life" (90 minutes, in Persian, with English subtitles; directed by Shirin Barghnavard and produced by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) portrays agricultural entrepreneur Shirin Parsi, who upon inheriting some land from her father-in-law, decided to return home from France to pursue her passions of organic farming and living off the land. The farm, she established with her husband, is near the small town of Rezvanshahr on the Caspian shore. The "Poets" of the title alludes to the husband-and-wife's love of poetry, which they recite in parts of the film.
The main crop of Parsi's farm is rice, which she grows using sustainable, organic methods. Lower-quality rice, imported from other countries, is more affordable to the masses, in the same way that in the US, say, many lower-income households cannot afford organically-produced vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat. Parsi isn't just an entrepreneur but also an environmentalist and social activist. In one of the film's scenes, speaking in front of what appears to be a symposium or official hearing, Parsi laments about lack of financial rewards for women farmers, who constitute more than half of the country's agricultural workers. They are perceived as working to contribute to their families, so the financial rewards of their labor go to the man of the household.
Originally, it had been announced that another Karestan documentary film, "Mother of the Earth," would be screened, but the program was later changed. In the course of the post-screening discussion, Banietemad suggested that perhaps the entire set of Karestan documentaries should be screened as part of a cultural gathering or mini-festival. Here are the films' titles, along with links to 2-minute trailers:
- "Puzzleys" (A group of four IT students set out to establish their own business) [Trailer]
- "Flax to Fire" (Life and work of industrialist/entrepreneur Aliasghar Hajibaba) [Trailer]
- "Poets of Life" (Shirin Parsi: rice farmer, environmentalist, and social activist) [Trailer]
- "Friends at Work" (Building a steel foundry in war-torn post-revolutionary Iran) [Trailer]
- "Mother of the Earth" (A couple's efforts to end the dumping of urban garbage) [Trailer]
- "Mahak: A World She Founded" (Saideh Ghods' crusade to help cancer sufferers) [Trailer]
Shirin Barghnavard is now working on a new documentary film about the Keep Children in School (KCIS) Foundation. Jila Kashef, Founder and President of KCIS (known by its Persian name, "Anjoman-e Yaaraan-e Daanesh o Mehr," in Iran), who was in attendance, spoke very briefly about her Foundation and offered assistance to attendees for ordering DVDs of "Poets of Life" to help with spreading its message and to support Karestan's culture-building programs.
A few more links: Karestans Web site; About Karestan documentary film series [9-minute video];
Rakhshan Banietemad on Wikipedia and on IMDB; More photos from today's event (Thanks to Jila Kashef)
Facebook post of this report, which also includes a Persian version; Tweet about this report

2019/05/18 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Bell Labs' Belle computer was the first to achieve master-level chess play (1983) Cartoon: John Bolton, Trump administration's War-Monger-in-Chief and puppet-master, who has been wanting a war with Iran for decades E&T magazine's review of 'The Gendered Brain,' by Gina Rippon (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Bell Labs' Belle computer was the first to achieve master-level chess play (1983). [Center] John Bolton, Trump administration's War-Monger-in-Chief and puppet-master, who has been wanting a war with Iran for decades. [Right] The Gendered Brain is the title of an important book by Gina Rippon that bears the subtitle "The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain." [Review]
(2) German engineering: Every techie should want to own this compact charging cable that gives you USB A, C, and Micro, as well as Apple Lightning in a size/form that you can carry with you on a key chain. It is made by Vonmaehlen, but, the last I checked, isn't available on Amazon.
(3) Memes about the hottest issues of the day: Rescinding women's rights ("I dream women will one day have the same rights as guns") and war-mongering in the Middle East ("Iran wants war: Look how close they put their country to our military bases"). [Images]
(4) The Republicans have just invented the phrase "Consensual rape": "Consensual scam" (a la Trump University) and "Consensual murder" (NRA's favorite) can't be far behind. Where have these men and women (yes, there are Republican women, some of them governors, who believe this) been over the past few decades of progress toward gender equality and women's rights? [Meme]
Cover image for 'The Road to Character,' by David Brooks (5) Book review: Brooks, David, The Road to Character, unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs, read by Arthur Morey and the author, Random House Audio, 2015. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Writing with his by-now-familiar wit and curiosity, Brooks focuses on deep values that should inform our lives but that have fallen by the side in our culture of "Big Me." He makes a distinction between attributes that bring external recognition and material success ("resume virtues") and those, such as kindness, courage, honesty, and faithfulness, that exist at our core ("eulogy virtues"). Building a strong inner character requires awareness of our limitations and willingness to exercise self-control in the service of a larger cause.
Perhaps the most important ingredients of eulogy virtues, and the joys they bring to our lives, are humility and moral depth. Brooks elaborates on the importance of eulogy virtues using a blend of psychology and spirituality, similar to what he used in his best-selling 2012 book, The Social Animal. In a way, by focusing on inner peace, as opposed to rewarding external connections, this book complements Brooks' 2012 book.
Brooks is an optimist, so in his eagerness to paint a rosy picture of our society, where hard work and competence rather than inherited money, shapes the new American upper class, he fails to note that study after study has indicated that social mobility in the US is much lower than in most other advanced countries.
On the positive side, Brooks takes many research results from the field of psychology and makes them accessible to everyone through his skill of communicating and relating the research to our daily lives. On the negative side, much personal opinion is mixed in with the science-based assertions. All in all, this is a good read/listen, but the reader must stay vigilant to separate supported facts from matters of opinion: Not always an easy task!

2019/05/17 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Penny Mordaunt, UK's new Secretary of Defense San Francisco becomes the first city to ban the use of facial-recognition technology for surveillance The face of a man living 1300 years ago, reconstructed from a skeleton discovered in 2014 (1) Faces for today: [Left] This is Penny Mordaunt, UK's new Secretary of Defense: VP Mike Pence is terrified that he may have to meet with her (alone, for security reasons) some day soon. Iran's President Rouhani and FM Zarif are similarly worried that some future photo op with her might rile their conservative foes and state-supported, PhotoShop-loving press. (The new Secretary of Defense is real; the rest of the story is satire.) [Center] San Francisco becomes the first city to ban the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance purposes by police and other agencies. [Right] The face of a man living 1300 years ago, reconstructed from a skeleton discovered in 2014 (National Geographic).
(2) Marching backwards: Not just "Roe v. Wade" (women's choice) but also "Brown v. Board of Education" (segregation), which was decided 65 years ago today, may be overturned by the US Supreme Court.
(3) Today's technical magazine arrivals: Interesting articles about the state of quantum computing (IEE E&T, May 2019) and life-saving applications of drones in Africa (IEEE Spectrum, May 2019).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Donald Trump pardons Conrad Black, a fraudster who has just published a glowing biography of him.
- Manufacturing facilities moving out of China owing to Trump's trade war will go to Mexico, not the US.
- The recent measles case at UCLA prompted UCSB Student Health to issue an alert to campus denizens.
- Six months after California's Camp Fire, the area's water remains undrinkable due to contamination.
- Thought-provoking cover cartoon of The New Yorker, issue of May 20, 2019.
- Prison riots by criminals and the ensuing clashes have put the lives of Iran's political prisoners in danger.
- Iranian students continue to challenge the autocratic Islamic regime. [Cartoon source: Iranwire.com]
- Kurdish music: An all-female ensemble performs the song "Kermashan, Kermashan." [6-minute video].
- Islamic Andy: A Persian dance tune, similar to pop singer Andy's songs, sanctioned by Iran's mullahs!
(5) "Public Interest Technology Research and Education": This was the title of a CS Distinguished Lecture at UCSB this afternoon. The speaker, Ellen W. Zegura (CS Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Serve Learn Sustain at Georgia Tech), has research interests in computer networking and computing for social good, which she has brought together in a set of projects in collaboration with Elizabeth Belding at UCSB to study and expand Internet access on Native American tribal lands.
We science/technology researchers often focus on the questions of "Why?" and "How?" in studying challenging problems. Speakers like Zegura remind us to also pay attention to "So what?" Ford Foundation's and New America's Public Interest Technology (PIT) network of universities, of which Georgia Tech is a charter member, was launched to advance the intersection of technology and public problem solving.
In her talk, Zegura highlighted 3 Georgia Tech efforts, one in education (a course entitled "Civic Data Science"), one in research (challenges of universal Internet access), and one in research about education (how to instill professional and social responsibility in students, who come in with public-service experience from high school, but their interest declines over their time as undergraduates). She also made suggestions on how all computer scientists can connect to public problem solving.
[Photo/slides] [Zegura's faculty Web page] [ACM COMPASS Conferences: First-2018; Second-2019]

2019/05/16 (Thursday): Report on today's UCSB IEE symposium "Emerging Technologies Review 2019"
UCSB IEE 'Emerging Technology Review': Poster UCSB IEE 'Emerging Technology Review': Program UCSB's Dean of Engineering Rod Alferness opened the Symposium by welcoming the attendees and discussing the importance of energy efficiency to the future of our state, country, and planet. He also reviewed the mission and accomplishments of UCSBs Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE), the day-long symposium's sponsor, over its decade of existence. IEE Director John Bowers then described IEE goals and activities in greater detail, provided information on the soon-to-be-completed campus building that will house the Institute, and concluded with future plans, or what he called "IEE 2.0." [Images]
(1) Gary Barsley from Southern California Edison, a utility company with 15 million customers, outlined SCE's consumer-side programs for improving energy efficiency. There are parallel programs on the grid/distribution side that he did not discuss. SCE no longer has power generation facilities, which have moved to the private sector. Impressively, despite population growth and increase in the kinds of usage (such as EVs), power consumption has remained flat. Differential time-of-day pricing and other measures are expected to lower the peak consumption in future. [Images]
(2) Hydrogen is a clean source of energy and it is abundant in nature, not just in water, but also in methane (CH4). Speaking under the title "Transitioning to a Hydrogen Energy Economy with the Help of Natural Gas," Eric McFarland (UCSB) outlined his research team's efforts, supported by US DoE and several industry partners, in low-emission production of hydrogen for varied uses. This approach forms a bridging step in transitioning from fossil fuels to cleaner alternative technologies that aren't economically attainable yet. [Images]
(3) The Symposium's keynote lecture, entitled "New Compute Models to Power the Data Revolution," was delivered by Rich Uhlig (Intel). The shifting nature of data, from numerical values, through multimedia content, to IoT sensing/control, has motivated Intel to start thinking differently about the design of computing resources. Uhlig outlined three key aspects of the new technologies that Intel is pursuing, that is, in order of immediacy (likelihood of bearing fruit in the near future), graph analytics, neuromorphic computing, and quantum computing. Uhlig outlined the key challenges of each of the three technologies. [Images]
(4) Brent Gorda (ARM) spoke under the title "ARM Entering the Data Center Business—What to Expect." Lately, ARM has operated primarily as an IP company. It's processor ISA effectively dominates the embedded-systems market, and thus IoT. More ARM processors are put on silicon than all other processors combined. ARM has strict policies to ensure that diverse realizations of its ISA remain consistent and software-compatible. Fujitsu's super-high-performance implementation of the ARM architecture has opened the way for its use in high-performance computing and data-center applications. [Images]
(5) VMware is a software virtualization company devoted to offering easy-to-use cloud computing services. Speaking under the title "Compute Inefficiency: The Low Hanging, Costly, and Overlooked Fruit," VMware's Mark Honer discussed energy-efficiency advantages of cloud-based services. He maintained that customers value and demand sustainability. That's why tech giants are striving for zero carbon footprint (Microsoft achieved it in 2012). Our goal shouldn't just be to pursue enabling technologies that maintain planetary health at the current level, but to regenerate/improve its health. A growing number of major companies have made a commitment to go 100% renewable. [Images]
(6) Chandra Krintz (CS, UCSB) addressed the topic of "Energy-Efficient Software Development for the Internet of Things (IoT)." She advocated leveraging cloud and big-data analytics in order to release end-users from the burden of figuring out how to achieve their desired results. Rather, they should be allowed to express, in high-level terms, what they need, with the hardware and software infrastructure figuring out how to satisfy those needs through appropriate and energy-efficient use of local (edge), regional, and global (cloud) resources. This approach leads to the development of short, portable programs/scripts by end-users. [Images]
(7) Energy considerations are intimately linked to food and water resources. Speaking under the title "Coastal Water Security with Distributed Offshore Reverse Osmosis," Peter Stricker (Ecomerit) described a patented reverse-osmosis system to address climate-driven drought. Like desalination plants, the system can be used as part of the permanent water-supply infrastructure, if desired. While California's water-shortage problem has been solved for now due to above-average rainfall, drought-caused problems are here to stay in the long term. Stricker claimed that water from the proposed RO system would cost less than what our area pays to get state water. [Images]
(8) Brian Tarroja (UC Irvine) spoke under the title "Navigating the Design Space of Trajectories Toward Low/Zero Carbon Energy Systems in California," citing the dual motivations of environmental sustainability and resource security. Following a description of the problems and goals, Tarroja focused on two specific examples, viz., electrification of transportation (problems with increased load on the electric grid and increase in peak demand, if everyone charges the EVs at about the same time) and large-scale energy storage deployment (which helps match the supply to demand, but comes with environmental impacts of battery production and disposal). [Images]
(9) "Cutting-Edge Modeling Tools to Enable Low Carbon Grids" was the title of a talk by Ranjit Deshmukh (UCSB). He described open-source investment and operational cost models that he helped develop and has used successfully in parts of Africa and India to help assess the cost-effectiveness of various placement options for renewable energy sources versus the space and time distribution of consumption. [Images]

2019/05/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perfectly-timed photos: Example 3 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 5 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 4 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 7 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 6 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 8 (1) Half-dozen very interesting examples of perfectly-timed photos.
(2) Distinguished CS PhD graduates: Chelsea Finn (UC Berkeley) was awarded the 2018 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for "Learning to Learn with Gradients," which introduces algorithms for meta-learning that enable deep networks to solve new tasks from small datasets. Honorable mentions went to Ryan Beckett and Tengyu Ma, both from Princeton. [Photos]
(3) Early this morning on the beach: Before embarking on 11 straight hours of classes, office hours, meetings, and seminars, I walked for about an hour in Goleta Beach Park, where a normally-wide UCSB beach had all but disappeared due to high tide and the birds sat lazily between a tide-pool and the ocean. [Photos] [Video]
(4) "Mesh-Based Tools to Analyze Deep Reinforcement Learning Policies for Underactuated Biped Locomotion": This was the title of an interesting and well-attended technical talk by Dr. Katie Byl (UCSB), given at a meeting of IEEE Central Coast Section today. [Images] [Schedule of the remaining IEEE CCS talks for 2019, held on the third Wednesday of each month]
Robots come in many shapes and forms and use a variety of methods for locomotion. Among challenges being addressed in the field of robotics, control of biped robots is arguably one the most difficult. The dynamics of biped robots are nonlinear, hybrid, and underactuated, and they must operate in stochastic environments, without falling (an occurrence that is all too common, if you look at YouTube videos of such robots in various tests and competitions). Ideally, robots should be robust, agile, and energy-efficient, and there are trade-offs among these three desirable attributes.
Recently, deep learning has been applied to generate successful control policies for a variety of simulated and real legged robots. Intuitively, one would expect that including perturbations and/or other types of noise during training of a deep learning policy would likely result in more robustness of the resulting control policy. However, one would like to have a quantitative and computationally-efficient means of evaluating the degree to which this might be so. Rather than relying on Monte Carlo simulations, Dr. Byl's goal is to provide more sophisticated tools to assess robustness properties of such policies.
Dr. Byl presented a mesh-based approach to analyzing stability and robustness of the policies obtained via deep reinforcement learning for various biped gaits of a five-link planar model. Dr. Byl's presentation was punctuated with video clips showing her own work as well as work by other research teams.
Additional information and learning resources: [Speaker's personal home page] [UCSB Robotics page] [UCSB Robotics on YouTube] [Guide to deep reinforcement learning] [A beginner's guide to Reinforcement Learning] [Not-so-deep reinforcement learning for dummies] [Speaker-supplied videos of interest: forthcoming]

2019/05/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon showing the impact of China tariff on Middle-America Cartoon about the need to move some works of fiction to the non-fiction department Cartoon about AG Bill Barr's campaign of spin and obfuscation (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] The tariffs imposed on China are hurting farmers and other low/middle-income Americans. [Center] From New Yorker: "Can you give me a hand moving these?" [Right] Bill Barr prepares for a lucrative post-AG career of spin and obfuscation in Washington.
(2) Automatic text-generation tools advance to the next age: If you provide the start of a made-up news article to this Web app, it will finish it for you.
(3) John Bolton, a chief architect of the Iraq War, and one of the few people worldwide who still think it was a good idea, is at it again, promoting a war with Iran, that is sure to take longer and cause more casualties than his previous disaster.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- We'll pay for the tariffs on Chinese goods, not China. Just as we're paying for Trump's wall, not Mexico.
- India was the first of the world's great democracies to fall to populism: Can it survive the political division?
- Pregnant 11-year-old rape victim in Ohio won't be allowed to have an abortion under new state law: MAGA!
- Tech2Peace is an initiative to bring Israeli and Palestinian youth together via technology partnerships.
- Magnificent 3D painting of a bird.
- One in four US homes is now all-electric: The trend is particularly notwworthy in the South and Midwest.
- Quote of the day: "Everyone is so happy on social media. It's depressing." ~ Actress Meg Ryan, 57
- A rather sassy performance of one my favorite songs, "Sway."
- A popular Spanish song: "La Paloma" ("No More") wonderfully performed by Placido Domingo.
(5) A proposal to geeks who love Persian poetry (this Facebook post contains my proposal's Persian version): Poetry Web sites have vastly simplified the task of finding the works of great Persian-speaking poets. Search capabilities, however, remain at a primitive level. For instance, ganjoor.net allows searching of its database for poems containing a given keyword (such as 'love' or 'Farhad'). But if you are interested in poems containing both 'love' and 'Farhad,' you are stuck with the unpleasant task on manually searching the results of one keyword search for the occurrence of the other keyword. Google searches are sometimes helpful, but they tend to return many blog posts and other Web content with incomplete or incorrect versions of the poems. And you still have to examine the hits one by one. Adding such a capability to ganjoor.net, or designing a post-processor that works based on the results returned by ganjoor.net, shouldn't be too difficult. The tool can be made even more useful by employing machine-learning methods to handle alternate spellings and typographical variations.

2019/05/13 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A young Doris Day Cover image of Armistead Maupin's 'Logical Family: A Memoir' Michelle Obama in a stunning purple outfit (1) Images of the day: [Left] Que sera, sera: Doris Day, an icon of Hollywood's glamour years with the girl-next-door image, has died at 97. Here's a video showing Doris Day's transformation, as she aged from 1 to 96. [Center] Armistead Maupin's Logical Family: A Memoir, reviewed in the last item below. [Right] A woman who's comfortable in her skin: Michelle Obama's purple outfit has turned some heads.
(2) Cliff erosion is Isla Vista: My bluff-top walk of Sunday afternoon coincided with extreme high tide, bringing the water all the way to the base of the cliffs. This condition has eroded the cliffs over the years, leading to the installation of fencing in some areas to prevent people from getting too close to the bluffs' edges. [Photos] And here are a couple of selfies taken earlier that same afternoon at Coal Oil Point Nature Reserve.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- World markets lose $1 trillion in value as US-China tariff war heats up.
- Tension continues to build up in the Persian-Gulf region: Two Saudi oil tankers targeted with sabotage.
- This police-misconduct story, from Santa Barbara Independent is about UCSB, so it hit close to home.
- The deepest-ever submarine dive finds plastic waste on the Pacific Ocean floor.
- Persian music: An oldie song performed by the legendary late singer Gholam-Hossein Banan.
- Iranian music: This kamancheh-koobeh duet sounds like Kurdish music, but I'm not sure.
- Cartoon of the day: "They keep sending us their 'thoughts and prayers' ..."; "... And their kids." [Image]
- Cartoon caption of the day: "This is the true MIRACLE drug; it costs less this year than it cost last year!"
(4) Book review: Maupin, Armistead, Logical Family: A Memoir, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by the author, Harper Audio, 2017. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Maupin, best known for his Tales of the City series, was raised in North Carolina among conservative, racist, and Confederate-nostalgist Republicans. The law-school dropout served in the US Navy in Vietnam and, after he discovered the joy of gay sex in the early 1970s, was offered a job as a journalist in San Francisco. "Logical Family" presumably refers to his close circle of friends and lovers in San Francisco, which replaced his real, illogical/biological family. Among his "friends with benefits" was actor Rock Hudson, who remained in the closet until he was afflicted with AIDS, when he was ousted by Maupin.
This 300-page memoir covers six decades, so, many of the author's life events are left out. The focus is on Maupin's transformation from his conservative, chaste, and intolerant background to the exact opposite: Liberal, promiscuous, and advocating diversity/equality, and the joy he found as a result. Maupin is considered an influential writer, particularly in regards to gay rights. His life and work are featured in the documentary film "The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin."
Maupin writes passionately and skillfully about his triumphs and misadventures, but many of stories in the book, while entertaining as you read them, are utterly forgettable.

2019/05/12 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A waterfall in Amol, Mazandaran Province, Iran Happy Mothers' Day! The winning entry at Texas Sand Sculpture Festival, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] A waterfall in Amol, Mazandaran Province, Iran. [Center] Honoring Mothers' Day (see item 2 below). [Right] The winning entry at Texas Sand Sculpture Festival, 2019.
(2) A happy Mothers' Day to my precious mom and to all the wonderful mothers who nurture our youth and serve as role models in every important aspect of life. As I write this note, mothers are imprisoned in Iran for behavior that not only isn't criminal but represents noble resistance against backward-looking patriarchy, making their children and everyone else proud. And here are some flowers and a Persian poem (by the contemporary Iranian poet Fereydoon Moshiri) honoring mothers.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Afghan journalist Mina Mangal shot and killed in broad daylight en route to work.
- Okay, climate-change deniers: How much more evidence do you need? [Chart, atmospheric carbon]
- Here's what happens to a plane wing when hit by a small drone: Result of experiment at U. Dayton, Ohio.
- The devastating consequences of deforestation. [4-minute video]
- Persian music and dance: A 3-minute video from foroozan.dance.
- Nostalgic Kermanshah II: Music, with the backdrop of a family outing in the 1960s. [Grainy video]
(4) An often-misused Persian idiom: Some people spell the idiom "kaj daar o mariz" so that it ends with the word for "sick," which sounds the same as the word for "don't spill," the correct usage. The idiom means to carry a wineglass or bowl in tilted position, while taking care not to spill the contents, that is, being deliberate or diplomatic. A couple of verses from a Persian poem, whose poet I was unable to find, are often cited as evidence for the correct form. [Facebook post, with the Persian poem and related text]
(5) Satire? No, it's, at least in part, serious: An unnamed person dares Iran's mullahs to take advantage of the Great Satan bringing forces to the Persian Gulf to show their military might, heretofore used only against cardboard mock-ups of fighter jets and aircraft carriers, not to mention to suppress and jail unarmed women's and labor rights activists. As the Persian saying goes, the sheep has walked into the slaughterhouse on its own volition, the writer continues. Show that you can turn the burning of the American flag and chants of "Death to America" into a military victory! [Facebook post]

2019/05/11 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan, Iran Unnamed shrine in Iran (from Navid Fatehpour's Instagram) Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz, Iran (Photographed by Nora Piero) (1) Iran's amazing mosques/shrines: [Left] Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan, Iran. [Center] Unnamed shrine in Iran (from Navid Fatehpour's Instagram). [Right] Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz, Iran (Photo by Nora Piero).
(2) Talk about infrastructure: China's ambitious projects to redirect water from its south to drought-stricken areas hundreds of miles to the north. [5-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(3) Big meeting in Tehran: This is the first color (colorized?) film I have seen of the late-1943 Tehran Conference attended by Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin. [2-minute video]
(4) How a teen fought her school's discriminatory dress code for graduating women and won: She had nothing against dresses or skirts, but thought that the no-pants-for-girls policy was outdated. After failing to convince school authorities of the need to update the dress code for the 21st century, she took her fight to the school board and gave an impassioned speech during the comments period. Now, the policy reads "professional attire" for both men and women.
(5) Egyptians laugh at veiling of women (I wish Iranians had done the same 4 decades ago): Gamal Abdel Nasser relates how he could not reach a deal with Muslim Brotherhood, because they demanded that he veil all 10 million Egyptian women. [2-minute video, in Arabic, with Persian and English subtitles]
(6) My daughter Sepideh's 25th birthday celebration, today: The party was a hit, thanks to the presence and food/work contributions of our extended family and a visit from a cousin who is here from Israel, along with her daughter's US-based family. Our celebration also included honoring mothers a day early, an apt combination, given that Sepideh was born on Mothers' Day. [Photos: Batch 1; Batch 2, including Video 1]
The very talented duo SBPianoBoys provided live musical entertainment at our party. [Video 2] [Video 3]
They took turns playing and later joined together for several wonderful duet performances, including two Hungarian dances by Brahms. Bravo! [Video 4] [Video 5] [Video 6] [Playlist]

2019/05/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Trump and Barr make a mockery of our justice system and separation of powers Universal healthcare is not a radical idea but mainstream throughout the free world Historic site in Kashan, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Trump and Barr make a mockery of our justice system and separation of powers. [Center] Universal healthcare is not a radical idea but mainstream throughout the free world. [Right] Historic site in Kashan, Iran (credit: Navid Fatehpour's Instagram).
(2) Quote of the day: "It's time to go back to the moon, this time to stay." ~ Jeff Bezos, upon revealing a new moon lander, Blue Moon, along with a smaller rover
(3) It would be great if we could retire the misogynistic Persian terms "gheirat" and "namoos," which have had no use over the centuries other than curtailing women's freedom. [Persian translation]
(4) Exaflops milestone to come in 2021: The $600M supercomputer being developed by the the US Energy Department will offer a performance of 1.5 × 10^18 floating-point operations per second or 1.5 exaflops.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- IranWire journalist target of fatwa and death threat for writing a poem against extremist/irrational Islam.
- Iran's Minister of Intelligence is worried that Christianity is spreading in parts of the country.
- Humorous breaking news for my Persian-speaking readers. [Image]
- Kurdish music, with the backdrop of old (grainy) late-1950s/early-1960s film clips from the region.
- Flowers are everywhere around my home in southwestern oceanfront area of Goleta. [Photos]
- Climate-change song: We need to build a better future, and we need to start right now! [Video]
- This one's for my Persian-speaking readers: The themes of death and dying in Persian idioms and slang.
(6) Persian comedy routine: In this video clip, the humorist known as "Mr. Haloo" pretends to ask a cleric for religious guidance on whether it is permissible to show a woman wearing a wig in a film he his making. The cleric answers that it's okay, provided the woman's own hair is well hidden under the wig. Follow-up questions: Can the wig be made from natural hair? Can one woman's natural hair be made into a wig for another woman? Can we cut a woman's hair and make it into a wig for that same woman? The answer is "yes" in all cases. Punch-line question: Isn't it stupid to cut a woman's hair and put it back on her head, when it is already there?
(7) I have been preparing for tomorrow's major quarter-of-a-century birthday party and celebration of Mothers' Day (a day early). Part of the prep is putting together a platter of Persian-style fresh herbs.

2019/05/09 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB's West Campus Beach this afternoon, with one of the clearest views of Platform Holly UCSB's Faculty Club, where today's 'Men Allies for Gender Equity' workshop was held This afternoon at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve, not far from UCSB's West Campus Beach (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCSB's West Campus Beach this afternoon, with one of the clearest views of Platform Holly. [Center] UCSB's Faculty Club, where today's workshop (see the last item below) was held. [Right] This afternoon at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve, not far from UCSB's West Campus Beach.
(2) Alert to tomato lovers: New tariff on imported tomatoes from Mexico will lead to price increases at US supermarkets and Mexican restaurants, which use lots of tomatoes.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Roya Hakakian's Facebook post about a teen's bravery during Colorado's STEM school mass-shooting.
- Iranian-American mother and daughter graduate with University of Arizona engineering degrees.
- Today's English lesson: The word "Dangerous"! [Video]
- Cleaning advice: How to remove different kinds of stain. [Meme]
(4) Men Allies for Gender Equity: This was the title of a 2-hour workshop taught by Professors Roger Green (EE, NDSU) and Robert Gordon (Psychology, Auburn) at UCSB's Faculty Club today. The workshop was conducted in separate sessions for men and women participants, so as to allow honest and open exchange of ideas and to optimize the presentations to the different awareness levels and information needs.
As my friends know, I am an advocate for complete and unconditional gender equality and am quite active in the domain of women's rights, so I wasn't sure whether I would gain anything from the workshop. I was mistaken in this belief, especially in the area of recognizing and dealing with unintentional or unconscious bias. One recurring theme in the workshop was the need for men to speak up when they see gender bias and not leave the entire burden to women colleagues. Examples include acting when they see women interrupted during meetings, making sure that women are nominated for awards and honors, and keeping both men and women in mind in all endeavors (NASA's lack of suitable space suits for women comes to mind).
It's impossible for me to even mention all the key ideas and strategies presented in the workshop, which focused on understanding the challenges faced by women in disciplines, such as sciences and engineering, where they are significantly under-represented. Instead, I will share the comprehensive and highly informative presentation slides. Here, I just reiterate the 5 quick and easy actions that will get you started on the way to becoming a gender-equity advocate:
- Attend an Advocate FORWARD Ally Workshop, if you get an opportunity to do so.
- Take a few Implicit Association Tests.
- Watch the 10-minute video "5 Ways Men Can Help End Sexism."
- Read these 14 Advocacy Tips.
- Begin a Personal Action Plan and write down the first action you will take to promote gender equity.
The workshop was organized at the invitation of UCSB's Deans of Science and of Engineering, who should be commended for their initiative.
[Selected workshop handouts: Male privilege; References, Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4]
[NDSU's FORWARD Resource Page] [Presentation slides for today's UCSB workshop (forthcoming)]

2019/05/08 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of the latest issue of 'National Geographic': Leonardo, a Renaissance man for the 21st Century Cartoon: How the Republicans represent the Democrats' plan Cover of Newsweek magazine, issue of May 10, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover of the latest issue of National Geographic: Leonardo, a Renaissance man for the 21st Century. [Center] Republicans' strategy to smear Democrats: Placing a noble, patriotic, and morally right action (impeaching Trump) alongside four falsehoods to make the former also seem undesirable or wrong. [Right] Those who dismissed China are realizing their mistake: But Trump continues on his trade-war path.
(2) The tectonic plate off the coast of Portugal is peeling: This phenomenon, which Is being detected for the first time, can shrink the Atlantic Ocean and send Europe toward Canada.
(3) Stereotyping STEM women: Despite much progress toward gender equality, STEM women are still portrayed in stereotypical ways in the popular media. Fay Cobb Payton and Eleni Berki discuss the consequences of stereotyping and other sociocultural gender barriers in their insightful May 2019 article, published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 5, pp. 56-63.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- What was Donald saying about freeloaders not paying income tax despite crippling government debt?
- Felon-in-Chief bought stocks and pretended to be a corporate raider to boost prices, before selling off.
- Can't eliminate poverty? Move the goalpost by redefining it, as Trump admimistration is doing! [Newsweek]
- CIA warns an Arab pro-democracy activist in Norway about Saudi threat against him.
- Texas bartender faces jail time for serving drinks to an intoxicated, armed man, who later killed 8 people.
- Private jet that disappeared en route from Las Vegas to Monrerrey found with all 13 occupants dead.
- Iranian school girls say no to mandatory hijab law and the regressive mindset that produced it. [Photos]
- Low-tech gadgets, with big impacts on worker comfort and productivity. [3-minute video]
- Emergency patient transport, when every second counts. [Video]
- Persian music: Three players, one of whom doubles as a singer, play two instruments (a tar and a tonbak)!
- Persian music: Mahsa Vahdat sings. [3-minute video]
- Quote: "When you shoot a zebra in the black stripe, the white stripe dies too." ~ African proverb
(5) I snapped these photos on campus today, on the way to my 12:00 PM class: Yes, I get my share of sleepy/exhausted (8:00 AM, 6:00 PM) and hungry students!

2019/05/07 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos taken during a pleasant campus walk on May 6, 2019 Old-time college friends, photographed in a restaurant on their last day of touring Kurdistan Photos I took during a stroll through UCSB's arts building on May 6, 2019 (1) Images from yesterday: [Left] Photos taken during a pleasant campus walk, between my 12:00-2:00 class and 3:00-4:30 office hours on May 6, 2019. The Lagoon Island, a piece of land between the C-shaped campus lagoon and the Pacific Ocean, and mountains on Santa Barbara Channel Islands are seen in one of the photos. [Center] Good to see old-time college friends in this photo, as they end their tour of Kurdistan, but the restaurant's chair design choice isn't the best for a bunch of older diners! [Right] Photos I took during a stroll through UCSB's arts building on May 6, 2019, where even the courtyard benches are artsy!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Study finds that Americans cross structurally-deficient bridges 178 million times per day.
- Microbots, which move due to different expansion characteristics of various materials, are coming.
- Deep-sea drones help discover seafloor habitats, volcanoes, faults, and tsunami-triggering slopes.
- Bird's-eye view of Orkney is Scotland: Natural-drone videography! [3-minute video]
- The Seven Wonders of the World, as they look today and if they had survived. [Pictorial]
- Afghan boy dances for joy in the hospital after being outfitted with an artificial leg. [Video]
- Japanese ensemble performs "Morgh-e Sahar" to honor Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. [8-minute video]
- Kurdish music: Sadigh Ta'rif sings, accompanied by the Norooz Ensemble.
- Persian poetry: A few verses from Mowlavi (Rumi). [Facebook post]
- Celebrating Iran's national soccer team with Hooshmand Aghili at a Tehran park before the Revolution.
(3) My afternoon stroll at Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Park: I had not been to the Park for a couple of years, so decided to go back for a walk on this overcast spring day. The large, serene park is less than 1/2 mile to the north of the US 101, but if it weren't for the sound of cars traveling on the 101, it would feel like an isolated wilderness area. The beautiful lake and its surrounding areas, with their birds and wildflowers, are wonderful resources in the middle of a rapidly-developing urban region. [Photos: Batch 1; Batch 2; Batch 3; Batch 4]
(4) Police closed Highway 101 in Goleta mid-day today, May 7, 2019: The closure in both directions between Patterson and Turnpike was due to a standoff with an armed suspect while executing a high-risk search warrant at an apartment complex just to the south of the freeway on Turnpike. The area, which includes San Marcos High School, was evacuated. Nightmare traffic on Hollister Avenue ensued. The suspect was found dead from a (self-inflicted?) gunshot wound.

2019/05/06 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Satellite image of western United States NASA satellite image of the Iranian Plateau: Night NASA satellite image of the Iranian Plateau: Day (1) Satellite images: [Left] This satellite image of western United States reminds me that on maps and satellite images, oceans (and bodies of water in general) are under-represented. There is much going on in terms of topography and vegetation under the featureless light-blue color in maps or bluish-gray texture in satellite images. [Center & Right] Night and day NASA satellite images of the Iranian Plateau, with exaggerated topographical features for greater clarity.
(2) Happy Teachers' Day: Sharing a Facebook post from May 5, 2015, in honor of teacher appreciation day in the US and its Iranian counterpart, which was 3 days earlier.
(3) Trump's tax returns: It is not the Dems that have weaponized the IRS but cheating taxpayers in high places who are hiding their criminal activities behind noble causes such as privacy and personal liberties.
(4) ACLU excesses may give us a second Trump term: The organization's attempt to get Democratic candidates on record on issues such as abortion rights and voting by criminals is giving ammunition to Trump.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The fragile Israel-Gaza truce, brokered by Egypt, has fallen apart with renewed hostilities.
- Russian plane bursts into flame upon emergency landing, killing more than half of the 78 on board.
- Taliban kill 13 in attack on Afghan police headquarters: And the US is negotiating with these terrorists?
- Boeing knew about and ignored problems with its 737 Max plane the year before Lion Air crash.
- Nurse sets world record in London Marathon but is denied recognition because she wore trousers!
- Stocks-friendly US presidency may end: A few mentions of Medicare-for-all has hurt healthcare stocks.
- Artists are turning the US-Mexico border wall into a monument for peace.
- World's 10 best destinations for flower lovers, according to National Geographic.
(6) The United States, China, India, and an expanding field of smaller players are planning moon-landing missions in search of opportunities to exploit resources on the surface of the moon.
(7) Breaking news: Royal baby boy arrives through the same path taken by all babies and makes the exact same crying sound, but more will be said and written about him than all other babies combined!
(8) The Borowitz Report (humor): Trump claims Mueller called to say that "[I am] the most innocent person he'd ever come across, and maybe in history."
(9) Quote of the day: "There could be a powerful international women's rights movement if only philanthropists would donate as much to real women as to paintings and sculptures of women." ~ Nicholas D. Kristof

2019/05/04 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two multi-panel paintings representing the four seasons (likely by the same artist, unknown to me) March for Science 2019: My T-shirt inscription reads 'Science Is Not a Liberal Conspiracy' Goleta Valley Public Library in the 1960s, when it was located on South Fairview Avenue (1) Images of the day: [Left] Two multi-panel paintings representing the four seasons (likely by the same artist, unknown to me). [Center] March for Science 2019: I couldn't be at today's Washington DC march and there was no march in Santa Barbara this year, so I did my own solo march in the wilderness near my home (more photos). [Right] Goleta Public Library in the 1960s, when it was located on South Fairview Avenue.
(2) We are at a defining moment in sports: Can/should we regulate natural variations in bodily functions? The answer appears to be "yes" for a black African woman and "no" for a white American man. [Meme]
(3) A Trump supporter lamented on Facebook about how she misses the days when our president was honored, not attacked. Personally, I miss the days when our president was honorable, not a felon!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Racism is nothing new in America: After a period of dormancy, it has reared its ugly head under Trump.
- Someone who once called Trump a kook and unfit for office shown criticizing others for doing the same!
- Pink Floyd's "The Wall," wonderfully performed in Middle-Eastern style.
- A couple of humorous memes for my Persian-speaking readers. [Images]
- Azeri dance: Taking a break from research work in the lab! [3-minute video]
- The amazing gap between the ultra-rich and ordinary people in Tehran, Iran. [11-minute video]
- The bridges of Isfahan, Iran: An informative 15-minute travelogue.
- Quote of the day: "A man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished." ~ Anonymous
(5) On economic indicators: GDP doesn't measure the well-being of the average American. Building a yacht and selling it to a rich person contributes more to the GDP than all economic activities in a small urban neighborhood. And unemployment rate isn't a good indicator by itself. As Kamala Harris points out in The Truths We Hold, which I am now reading, yes, people have jobs but many two-income families still have to decide whether to pay for their meds or their children's education; forget about saving for retirement! In some cases, their choice is between food and meds. A country can have near-full employment and starving citizens. A recent study by Temple University's Hope Center for College, Community and Justice has revealed that nearly half of all college students face food insecurity, because they have to give priority to paying their tuition and fees to stay in college. To these college students, and to graduates facing a similar situation due to the burden of eductional debt, GDP growth and low unemployment rate mean very little.

2019/05/03 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Amazing coastal sunsets: Photo 1 Amazing coastal sunsets: Photo 2 Amazing coastal sunsets: Painting (1) Amazing coastal sunsets: Two photos and a painting.
(2) Quote of the day: "I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last." ~ Rene Descartes
(3) Politics with random numbers: Headlines read that Trump and Dem leaders have agreed on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. But the "plan" is just that number and nothing else; no agreement or even discussion on where the money will come from or how it will be spent. Along the same lines, I have a $10 trillion "plan" to deal with climate change. No, make that a $15 trillion "plan"!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump just gave Putin the green light to interfere in our 2020 presidential election.
- New York Times apologizes for publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition.
- Patricia Arquette urged Congress to pass the Equal-Rights Amendment, ending 232 years of inequality.
- Journalist Roya Hakakian on rising anti-Semitism globally and its counter-intuitive receding in Iran.
- The dark side of hi-tech and how Facebook was an accessory to election-meddling. [4-minute video]
- Let's begin the countdown to a new president in 2020 and NASA's new moon landing in 2024!
- Meme of the day: An insightful characterization of our news diet lately! [Pie chart]
- I hope you keep on dancing, regardless of your circumstances! [Photo]
- Sanctions have hit Iran hard on the currency exchange market. [Photo]
- Five things invented by Iranians (2-minute video): Refrigerator; Postal service; Algebra; Guitar; Chess.
(5) On fake Twitter followers: "Twitter is trash, Facebook's the devil, I bought a million followers for like $400. None of this shit matters. Antarctica is melting." ~ Comedian Joe Mande, who has 1.01 million Twitter followers
(6) March for Science returns tomorrow, Saturday, May 4, 2019: Among protest topics is Trump administration's proposed removal of any mention of climate change from its Arctic policy statement.
(7) On May 2nd, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, everyone stops and reflects for 2 minutes, as sirens wail nationwide. Well, almost everyone! [Video]

2019/05/02 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perfectly-timed photo: Lightning bolt strikes a Delta passenger jet FedEx van driving/parking on UCSB walkways My college classmates during their tour of Iran's Kurdistan region (1) Images of the day: [Left] Lightning bolt strikes near the tail of a Delta passenger jet and exits through its landing gear below. [Center] UCSB walkways are being used as roads (see item 2 below). [Right] My college classmates during their tour of Iran's Kurdistan region (see item 3 below).
(2) Vehicles invading campus walkways at UCSB: The photos above, taken in mid-afternoon of May 1, 2019, show a large FedEx van parked in front of Ellison Hall (near Campbell Hall) and later driving past Cheadle Hall, on its way to University Plaza. Since many years ago, when I started tracking such violations, FedEx and UPS have been told that their delivery vehicles should not use campus walkways. But lack of enforcement has led to recurring violations, which endanger the safety of students and staff.
(3) Wish I could have been there: A number of my Tehran University College of Engineering (Fanni) classmates, with whom I celebrated the 50th anniversary of our graduation in Armenia last year, are touring Iran's Kurdistan region. They have been sending me photos and got in touch this morning through a video call from Mahabad to say that I am missed. The bottom photo above was taken at the Central Square in Saqqez, the birthplace of both of my parents.
(4) Compressive sensing: In this excellent 74-minute lecture, given at Microsoft Research, Professor Richard Baraniuk (Rice U) explains the modern tool that helps us mitigate data explosion in a variety of applications.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Possible defeat of AIDS: Broad study finds the effectiveness of drugs in stoping the transmission of AIDS.
- While the nation was fixated on AG Barr's testimony, Trump took a further step to dismantle Obamacare.
- An overview of quantum computing and its significance, in 10 minutes.
- Amnesty International demands the release of labor-rights activists detained in Iran.
- Iran still uses child soldiers: And it proudly advertises this policy for propaganda and in recruitment ads.
(6) "A Roadmap for Reverse-Architecting the Brain's Neocortex": This was the title of today's talk by Dr. James E. Smith, Emiritus Professor of U. Wisconsin and Adjunct Professor of CMU Silicon Valley, under the auspices of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. Smith has made seminal contributions to the field of computer architecture and was honored by the prestigious ACM/IEEE Eckert-Mauchly Award in 1999. Of late, he has been developing neuron-based computing paradigms at his Montana home.
It has been a dream of researchers in computer science and engineering to understand and replicate the computing paradigm(s) used in the brain's neocortex. The first milestone along the road is the development of feed-forward biologically plausible neural networks capable of unsupervised, continual learning, and with energy-efficient implementations. Recent results in neuroscience provide a foundation for this first step.
The next step moves from plausible primitives to functional building blocks that may be combined to achieve the milestone neural network. Here, there is much less experimental support, and the problem becomes more challenging. This also means that the research space is wide-open, with many opportunities for architectural innovation for decades to come. [Images]

2019/04/30 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Why you don't see crocodiles in the orchestra! Cartoon: Modern family at the dinner table Cartoon: Soldiers going to war and returning home (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] Why you don't see crocodiles in the orchestra! [Center] Modern family praying at the dinner table. [Right] Soldiers going to war and returning home.
(2) Quote of the day: "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." ~ John F. Kennedy
(3) US presidential candidates for 2020, by the numbers: 23 Candidates; 13 White men; 6 Women; 6 Senators; 6 People of color; 4 Would be youngest president; 3 Would be oldest president; 3 Veterans; 2 Obama officials; 2 Have never held office; 1 Out gay man.
(4) "Ecosystems of Oil at the Ocean's Floor and Other Secrets of the Santa Barbara Channel": This was the title of an interesting talk in the "Pacific Views Lecture Series," held in UCSB Library's 8th-floor conference room today. The speaker, Dr. David Valentine, Professor of Earth Science and Biology at UCSB, focused on three basins off the coasts of Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Long Beach (San Pedro). These are deep, bowl-like areas of coastal waters (~2000-3000 feet at their deepest points) that have fairly unique ecosystems, because of the dearth of oxygen at the isolated depths. Seepage of gas/oil and, in San Pedro Basin's case, large-scale deposits of waste from a now-defunct DDT plant nearby, have created varied life forms that shape and are shaped by the available nutrients. And yes, some life forms survive without oxygen, by adapting to what is available. The tools used by Dr. Valentine's group to investigate the aforementioned basins include a fully-equipped research vessel, a 3-passenger submarine, and an autonomous underwater vehicle. Dr. Valentine's presentation relied heavily on showing videos taken at the ocean floor, but, unfortunately, technical difficulties with the projection system did not allow the screening of all but a handful of videos (at the end of the presentation, after technical problems had been resolved). [Photo] [Dr. Valentine's Web page]
(5) A final thought for today, as we end the National Poetry Month: Saying "I don't like poetry" makes no sense, just as claiming "I don't like music" is nonsensical. There are so many different kinds of poetry that everyone is bound to like some of it. Try to find your kind!

2019/04/29 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The 5 different covers of the Time-100 special issue Selfie from the Time-100 gala (1) Time-100: [Left] The 4/29-5/06 special double-issue of Time magazine about "The 100 Most-Influential People" has 5 different covers, one for each of the 5 categories of pioneers, artists, leaders, titans, and icons. [Right] Comedian Trevor Noah takes a selfie at the Time-100 Gala.
(2) One death and multiple injuries are still heart-wrenching, but had the San Diego synagogue gunman's weapon not jammed, we'd be looking at a different scale of carnage.
(3) Would-be terrorist, who wanted to avenge the mosque murders in New Zealand by launching mass-casualty attacks against synagogues, churches, and other targets, has been arrested in Los Angeles.
(4) Quote of the day: "I wish my stove came with a 'Save As' button like Word has. That way I could experiment with my cooking and not fear ruining my dinner." ~ Jarod Kintz
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Are we too dazed to be shocked by an unhinged president who deems his critics 'scum' and 'stupid'?
- Trump on Easter: It means something very special ... And it really represents family and get-together ...
- Top general resurrects the threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz if Iran faces increased hostility.
- This humorous Persian poem about a donkey's advice to his son led to the closure of Ghaanoon Newspaper.
(6) Apple doesn't like apps that fight iPhone addiction: Over the past year, Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps. In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children's devices or that blocked children's access to certain content, while other apps were simply pulled from the App Store. [From: New York Times]
(7) Oh, the irony: This letter is said to have been written by Khamenei some 42 years ago, when he was imprisoned by the Shah's regime. In it, he asks that prison guards obey the law that a prisoner is entitled to making phone calls. Quite funny, given what goes on in Iranian prisons nowadays!

2019/04/28 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'New Yorker' cartoon: 'It's take-your-child-to-work day!' The way Putin looks at Trump is reminiscent of the Persian idiom 'a wise person's glance at a fool'! School-girls in Iran, then and now (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon: "It's take-your-child-to-work day!" [Center] The way Putin looks at Trump is reminiscent of the Persian idiom "a wise person's glance at a fool"! [Right] Iranians' dilemma: Trying to explain to their kids that the top photo shows their mom's generation at school and the bottom photo shows their grandma's.
(2) Historian Ron Chernow's speech at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner: There was no comedian for 2019, because "they wanted to try boring at this year's dinner"!
(3) Dr. Shokufeh Taghi on bi-gender governance and civil religion: In this Persian article, Dr. Taghi draws on Shahnameh's examples to demonstrate that order prevails in a society only when both the masculine and feminine elements influence all aspects of governance.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Continuing the journey toward "greatness": Trump pulls back Obama-era workplace protections for women.
- Exhuastion of vote-counters in the 10 days following the Indonesian election leads to 272 deaths
- Why do men find it hard to apologize? A psychotherapist responds in Psychology Today.
- This afternoon, on Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf, after dining with old-time friend Faramarz Davarian.
(5) Robert Mueller's scientific method: Having come to the conclusion that he cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump obstructed justice, Mueller sets out to falsify the null hypothesis that obstruction did not occur.
(6) Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival: Held in Alameda Park, the festival spanned May 26-28. There were many different booths and activities. [Photos] Among the main attractions were exhibits of electric and "green" autos and bicycles. [Photos] There was also a pictorial display about Santa Barbara's 1969 oil spill of 50 years ago that spurred environmental activism and led to the establishment of Earth Day. [Photos] Musical performances ran on two different stages, and a special stage in the children's area. [Video 1] [Video 2]

2019/04/27 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perfectly-timed photos: Example 1 Dr. Dale Clark, who passed away on March 8, 2019 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Perfectly-timed photos. [Center] Dr. Dale Clark, who passed away on March 8, 2019 (see item 2 below).
(2) Dr. Dale Clark [1943-2019]: This morning, I attended a memorial service for a former (retired) UCSB colleague at the Goleta Presbyterian Church. Quite a unique and talented individual, Dale unfortunately retired before I got to know him well. Today, through heartfelt comments and remembrances of several of his friends, including one who came all the way from Denmark to be at the service, I learned much about him, such as his love for music and poetry. Memorable lines from what his friends shared (related here from my memory) included "One was never sure whether dale was smiling" and "To say that his sense of humor was dry is an understatement." May he Rest In Peace! Among survivors is his wife Margie, another retired UCSB colleague, who managed our Student Affairs Office for several years. Warm condolences to her and other survivors!
(3) "Ashraf-e makhlooghaat": This Persian/Arabic expression means "the noblest of all creatures," referring to us humans, who do the following to a bull before a bullfight! [Meme]
(4) US law actually does allow charging someone with obstruction of justice, even when there is no underlying crime: Comedian Trevor Noah provides the clearest explanation of why this makes sense. Imagine your mom accusing you of eating all the cookies. You deny doing that, but when she wants to go into the kitchen to show you the empty jar, you block her way, as you continue to scream your denial. You know what your mom will do!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's 3-part tweet of Thursday, 2019/04/25 contained 6 demonstrably wrong statements.
- Is something wrong with this WH tweet about the First Lady's birthday, or is it just me?
- Kurdish Music and dance: Celebrating Sanandaj Day. [Video 1] [Video 2]
- This Norooz 2020 program may be of interest to my readers om the San Francisco Bay Area.
(6) Quote of the day: "When the thieves who robbed your house start fighting among themselves, don't raise your hopes that the winner will give part of your property back." ~ Anonymous (alluding to the infighting among Islamic Republic of Iran officials)
(7) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talks: Here's the latest update to IEEE CCS schedule of lectures (with some details of the forthcoming lecture by Dr. Katie Byl on May 15, 2019). We now have all third-Wednesdays of the month covered for 2019 and there are 3 speakers listed for early 2020 (2 confirmed and to be scheduled; 1 willing but not committed yet). [Web page]
(8) Goleta Valley Public Library: This under-used and under-appreciated community resource on North Fairview Avenue is my favorite place for browsing and reading books/periodicals. I use the library heavily, borrowing many audiobooks on CDs and in electronic form. [Photos]

2019/04/26 (Friday): Review of Thi Bui's remarkable and highly personal graphic memoir.
Table of contents for Thi Bui's graphic memoir Announcement of Thi Bui's April 25 lecture at UCSB Sample panels from Thi Bui's graphic memoir Book review: Bui, Thi, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, Harry N. Abrams, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is only the second graphic novel that I have read. I found the first one, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, a tad disappointing, even though it has received broad international acclaim and was made into a feature film.
Bui's book was the 2019 selection for the "UCSB Reads" program, now in its 13th year, so I was able to get a free copy on campus, in a book-sharing bin where campus denizens deposit their unneeded books. I attended Bui's UCSB lecture of April 25, 2019, and had the book signed by her. I will incorporate the notes I took during the lecture into my review. [Photos/Images]
Bui's graphic memoir, which has garnered many awards and honors, tells the story of an immigrant family from Vietnam (part of the so-called "Boat People"), including their lives during various stages of the Vietnam War, their daring escape after the fall of Saigon, and the challenges they faced in their new American surroundings. Bui left Vietnam when she was 3, so she had to piece together much of her early family history through long interviews with her parents and others.
Beautifully illustrated and poetically told, the book relates the universal story of the need for belonging and the challenges faced by many of us, immigrants or otherwise, having to act simultaneously as children and parents. "A book to break your heart and heal it," opines the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Like many war-ravaged countries, corruption and injustice prevailed in Vietnam during the war. I can very much relate to this aspect of Bui's story, which I also experienced after Iran's Islamic Revolution, and particularly, during the 8-year Iran-Iraq War. "People with access bought goods at a low price ... then sold them at a profit to relatives and middlemen ... who in turn sold them at an even higher price." [p. 201] Everyone was under suspicion: "[In school, we learned] about heroes such as Le-Ninh and how to report suspicious behavior. They said we should even report our parents!" [p. 225] Again, this is very similar to my first-hand observations in the post-Revolution Iran.
The parts of the memoir that describe the family's life in the United States are more predictable, as immigrants from many different countries face very similar challenges in terms of harassment, stereotyping, and lack of a sense of belonging, not to mention the difficulties of adapting to a new language and culture. This shared aspect is perhaps a tad more intense for the Vietnamese, given the US media's negative portrayals, both during and after the War.
Rather than simply read from the book during her UCSB talk, Bui chose to get several audience members engaged by giving them microphones and speaking parts, moving the volunteers to the front of the auditorium (she joked that she worked as a teacher for many years and thus likes to rearrange furniture and people in the room). The result was a very entertaining 20 minutes or so at the start of the lecture, especially when a very young boy spoke as several of the characters in Bui's story.
During a fairly long Q&A period, I asked Bui if the occasionally conflicting recollections from her parents (who were divorced and did not quite see the events in the same way) resulted in a need for guesswork or extrapolation to produce a complete narrative, and whether she has gone back to Vietnam for a first-hand look at the locations and settings of the early parts of her story. I learned that she has indeed gone back to Vietnam multiple times to get valuable insights about the country and its culture, although much has changed since those events occurred. She also showed the initial drafts of her drawings and text to her parents, thus giving them a chance to smooth things out or "veto" any part of the story they did not want told, although she reserved the right to make the final decision in each case.
Bui is now working on a number of projects, which include her next book, Nowhereland, and a sci-fi story about climate change, told from the perspective of the world's poor and disadvantaged people. Bui indicated that the number of people displaced as a result of climate change already exceeds displacements due to conflicts, and things will only get worse.

2019/04/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Italian artist plows a 10-square-miles portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci on a field, using a tractor, to honor the 500th anniversary of his death White House Correspondents Dinner: Washington's glamour night Throwback Thursday: Five years ago, on April 25, I came out of the Stone Age of digital gadgets and replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Italian artist plows a 10-square-miles portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci on a field, using a tractor, to honor the 500th anniversary of his death (video). [Center] White House Correspondents Dinner: With Trump skipping Washington's glamour night for the third straight year, his staff ordered not to attend, and A-list celebrities increasingly fearful of showing up, the event's future looks grim (image: Politico). [Right] Throwback Thursday: Five years ago, on April 25, I came out of the Stone Age of digital gadgets and replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone!
(2) Survivors of natural disasters need more than food and shelter to cope: Jila Mcvandi tweets that when she said she wanted to make dolls for kids in the flood-stricken areas of Iran, she was ridiculed. When she went there with a few dolls, she regretted that she had not made and distributed more dolls. [Tweet, in Persian]
(3) Community activism in Iran: Retired teacher Safura Ghallehzari helps build libraries for the Caspian port city of Bandar Anzali by collecting trash and discarded paper.
(4) Kim Jong Un demands $2 million for the care of comatose US citizen, Otto Warmbier, who died days after being released from imprisonment in North Korea.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump obstructs Congressional investigations, likely driving the Democrats toward impeachment: His plan?
- Trump repeatedly asked former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
- US measles outbreak (about 700 confirmed cases so far) leads to quarantines at UCLA and Cal State LA.
- Driver whose semi plowed into stopped traffic near Denver faces multiple counts of vehicular homicide.
(6) You're having too much fun: Iran's state-owned TV cancels a game show modeled after "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in view of objections by Khamenei that such shows go against the culture of hard work and creativity, and a fatwa from a senior cleric against all game shows with cash prizes.
(7) Modern network vulnerabilities: In the afternoon of April 24, 2019, UCSB experienced a campus-wide disruption of its computer network for more than 3 hours, and, even though service was restored before the end of the day, sporadic problems persisted for another day. The disruption was traced to a misconfigured departmental virtual machine, which caused a network loop that overloaded UCSB's core router. And all of this occurred despite modern security and operational controls on the campus network. It is like a whole bunch of careful drivers being endangered by a single wrong-way driver. In other words, it's not enough for you to obey traffic laws; you have to also watch out for careless drivers around you.
My 3:30 PM class was disrupted, because there was no Internet access in the classroom. Luckily, I had the PDF file of my lecture slides on my iPad, which had to do for the day, despite the fact that all slide animations and video clips were lost. My lecture topic was cryptography, which relied heavily on animation.

2019/04/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's portrait, rendered with spaghetti Passwords will soon become things of the past: Gone but not forgotten! Cover image of Meg Wolitzer's 'The Wife' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Sorry, not a pleasant image to see, but it's artistically interesting! [Center] Passwords will soon become things of the past: Gone but not forgotten! [Right] Cover image of Meg Wolitzer's The Wife, reviewed below (see item 6).
(2) Professional sports bettor James Holzhauer wins for the 14th straight time on "Jeopardy!" to become the 2nd player ever to top $1 million during a run on the game show.
(3) What a propaganda piece by Glenn Beck! Racists and White-Supremacists always wrap themselves in the American flag to claim legitimacy. Saying that attacking Kate Smith for racism is an attack on 'God Bless America' makes as much sense as saying that an attack on a racist US President is an attack on US presidency, because he once occupied that position.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- After thrashing US intelligence agencies, Trump accuses UK intelligence of helping Obama spy on him.
- Alphabet-owned Wing Aviation gets the first FAA approval for deliveries by drones.
- Supreme Leader Khamenei asserts that Iran can export as much oil as it needs, despite US sanctions.
- Sri Lankan suicide bombers were highly educated and financially independent; more terror attacks feared.
(6) Book review: Wolitzer, Meg, The Wife, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Dawn Harvey, Blackstone Audio, 201. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Having listened to and enjoyed The Wife: A Novel, by Alafair Burke, which I had mistaken to be this book, I decided to go after my original intent and read the book on which the 2017 Sony Pictures film "The Wife," featuring the award-winning performance of Glenn Close in the title role, was based.
[My GoodReads review of Alafair Burke's book, The Wife: A Novel]
Wolitzer opens her book with the title character reflecting upon her unsatisfactory life as the devoted wife of a successful American novelist, at 35,000 feet above the ocean en route to Helsinki, where her husband is to receive a major literary honor. Reviewing all the compromises she made, infidelities she ignored, and dreams she left unfulfilled, the wife thinks that she has reached a breaking point and wants to end her marriage.
The author then flashes back to decades earlier, when the couple's relationship began; he was then an unhappily-married professor and she was his super-talented student. The decades-long relationship is explored in the rest of the novel, with wonderful writing and keen observations about life and its challenges, particularly the question of whether an ambitious woman has a place in a world dominated by men.
The couple's marital troubles are accompanied by a secret, which I won't reveal in my review. During his acceptance speech for the Helsinki Prize, the honoree thanks his wife profusely, which upsets her. She had asked not to be mentioned in the speech, because she did not cherish the fact that she had tossed aside her own writing projects, to be a comforter and server.
An ambitious young writer, who was snubbed by the honored novelist, when he revealed that he aspired to be his authorized biographer, befriends the wife and gains some useful insights. Being forced into writing an unauthorized biography, the young writer also gathers morsels of information from other sources, most of which are unflattering.
Wolitzer's The Wife is generally viewed as an assault against the literary establishment and its misogyny in assuming that only men can write the Great American Novel. Wolitzer's Great American Novel is a highly enjoyable read, and a page-turner to boot!

2019/04/23 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Blossoming trees in rural Kurdistan, Iran: Photo 1 Blossoming trees in rural Kurdistan, Iran: Photo 2 Photo showing the center of Singapore Changi Airport's Jewel dome (1) Natural and artificial beauty: [Left & Center] Blossoming trees in rural Kurdistan, Iran, are threatened by expected snow from an approaching cold front. [Right] Singapore Changi Airport's Jewel dome, a mega-structure that houses an impressive array of recreational and shopping options (4-minute video).
(2) Persian Music: Anoushirvan Rohani is known as a master composer and piano player. In this video clip, from a concert at UCLA's Royce Hall, he demonstrates his mastery of the accordion.
(3) UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran: On Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 3:30 PM, a Karestan documentary film entitled "Poets of Life" will be screened (UCLA Dodd Hall 121; in Persian, with English subtitles). The film highlights the sustainability efforts of Hayedeh Shirzadi and her husband, whose work has led to 100% of the city of Kermanshah's garbage being recycled and its biowaste converted into organic fertilizers. The film's artistic consultant Rakhsan Banietemad and producer Mojtaba Mirtahmasb will participate in a post-screening discussion, in Persian, moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi. [Corrected flyer] [This is the corrected version of a post from Sunday, 4/21]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Three-dozen Saudis beheaded on terrorism charges and another one both beheaded and crucified.
- Human rights organizations condemn Saudi Arabia's mass execution of prisoners on terrorism charges.
- Quote of the day: "Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of mind." ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
- Three young men dining in Alabama invited an elderly woman who was eating alone to their table.
(5) The behind-the-scene puppet-master speaks: Emboldened by the administration's positive spin on the Mueller Report, Jared Kushner asserts that the report was more harmful to our democracy than Russia's interference. I really would like to see this parasite behind bars! That's why impeachment of Trump is so important. It may not lead to his removal, but it will expose a whole lot of lies and misinformation.
(6) Iranian's 2019 Norooz parade in NYC: Nice dances and floats, representing Iran's provinces and their diverse people. My only criticism is that they did not try to be more inclusive politically.
(7) Final thought for the day: The worst thing the Democrats can do is to send an old, white man, who lacks an understanding of women's issues and women's movement, to face Trump. The Democratic nominee should be as dissimilar to Trump as possible, which means a youngish woman with strong public-service credentials.

2019/04/22 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Earth Day! The future of humanity depends on the health of our planet, so let's stop abusing her My departmental colleague Dr. Mahnoosh Alizadeh has received two prestigious honors (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Earth Day! The future of humanity depends on the health of our planet, so let's stop abusing her. [Center] Congrats to an exceptional young scientist/engineer/educator! My departmental colleague Dr. Mahnoosh Alizadeh has received two prestigious honors: An NSF CAREER Award for 2019 and a Northrop Grumman Excellence-in-Teaching Award (co-recipient for 2018-19). [Right] A sample of Sri Lanka's beautiful nature, a point of attraction for foreign tourists, who may now shun the country.
(2) French game-maker, which created a digital model of Notre Dame for its "Assassin's Creed" video game, pledges $0.5 million for restoration efforts.
(3) A dinosaur poised to enter Trump's orbit: Stephen Moore once wrote that women should be banned from participating in March Madness basketball tournament in any role. Herman Cain, the other nominee, has already withdrawn from being considered for the job.
(4) Sri Lanka's government issues an apology for having failed to act on credible intelligence tips (in some cases with names and addresses of terrorists) from the US and other countries about planned suicide attacks.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Identities of the nearly 300 locals and tourists killed in Sri Lanka's suicide bombings are being released.
- Fake news about the Mueller report, being spread by the White House and AG Barr, according to Haaretz.
- Something to watch tonight: The Lyrid meteor shower at its peak!
- So you think you can drive: Try making this U-turn!
- Persian music performed by a group of talented young kids. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: Sepideh Raissadat performs a song composed by two band members accompanying her.
(6) The world's shortest commercial flight is scheduled for just 90 seconds: Loganair's 1.7-mile hop connects the Scottish islands of Westray (population: 640) and Papa Westray (population: 72) in the Orkneys. In reality, the flight takes anywhere from just under a minute to 2.5 minutes, depending on wind conditions.
(7) "Nand to Tetris": This is the name of a course and the title of today's talk by Shimon Shocken, Founding Dean of the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at IDC Herzliya, Israel, and former faculty member at NYU. Shocken outlined the design of a project-based course in which the semester-long project of building a modern computer from the ground up and programming it to play Tetris is divided into 12 one- or two-week mini-projects. Many universities worldwide use the notions used in this course, which has guides, modules, data files, and even a textbook freely available on-line. [Images]

2019/04/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A restaurant in Kashan, Iran (photo by Navid Fatehpour) A food-truck owner is criticized for advertising a T-Shirt that says, 'I support LGBTQ. Liberty, guns, bible, Trump, BBQ' All smiles, while taking a shoe-selfie! (1) Images of the day: [Left] A restaurant in Kashan, Iran (photo by Navid Fatehpour). [Center] Insensitivity to the extreme: A food-truck owner is criticized for advertising a T-Shirt that says, "I support LGBTQ. Liberty, guns, bible, Trump, BBQ." [Right] All smiles, while taking a shoe-selfie!
(2) Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival 2019 (49th annual; Alameda Park): Friday 4/26, 5:00 PM, concert only (no booths); Saturday-Sunday 4/27-28, 11:00 AM, booths and various programs. [Image]
(3) UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran: On Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 3:30 PM, a Karestan documentary film entitled "Mother of the Earth" will be screened (UCLA Dodd Hall 121; in Persian, with English subtitles). The film highlights the sustainability efforts of Hayedeh Shirzadi and her husband, whose work has led to 100% of the city of Kermanshah's garbage being recycled and its biowaste converted into organic fertilizers. Film director Rakhsan Banietemad and film producer Mojtaba Mirtahmasb will participate in a post-screening discussion, in Persian, moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi. [Flyer] [See the corrected version of this post on Tuesday, 4/23]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Easter attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka leave more than 200 dead.
- It's not just the 737 Max: A second Boeing jet is under scrutiny for shoddy production.
- Which is it Donald? Does Mueller's report exonerate you or is it a bunch of bullshit? Can't have it both ways!
- Why does the media give Giuliani or Conway a platform for spreading lies on behalf of the big conman?
- Several late-night show hosts form exploratory committees after TV comedian is elected president of Ukraine.
- With clean-up efforts ongoing after the floods that affected 10M people, Iranians brace for more rain.
- Pakistan accuses Iran in deadly cross-border attack that killed 14; Pakistani PM in Iran for talks.
- Boxer Sadaf Khadem cancels plans for returning to Iran after authorities issue arrest warrant for her.
(5) A technical assessment of Mueller's report: The released PDF file isn't searchable and it has low quality, because it was not electronically redacted, but scanned after redaction.
(6) The boundary between Russia's government and the country's criminal gangs/hackers has all but disappeared: An eye-opening report from CBS' "60 Minutes," broadcast this evening.
(7) A beautiful and bright spring day on the UCSB campus, with the magical sound of the Storke Tower carillon: Recital by Wesley Arai, UCSB Department of Music. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

2019/04/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colossus firefighting robot (1) Paris firefighters' secret weapon during the Notre Dame fire: They used Colossus, an 1100-pound, tank-like robot to mitigate damage to the cathedral and prevent the conflagration from spreading further, by entering environments too hazardous for humans. The battery-powered robot has a motorized water cannon, is waterproof and fireproof, and tolerates thermal radiation. It also can crawl up stairs, and be outfitted with cameras, sensors, and a smoke-extracting fan.
(2) Trump's approval ratings in March-April 2019, according to Reuters. AG Barr circulates 4-page summary of Mueller's report, 43%; Mid-April 2019, 40%; AG Barr releases redacted form of Mueller's report, 37%.
(3) Isn't it ironic that the only person from the corrupt Trump Organization who will serve jail time is Michael Cohen? He is a liar no doubt, but his lies are dwarfed by Trump's and those of other members of his family.
(4) Boston Dynamics set to market its "SpotMini" robotic dog: The robot can be used for patrol duties within buildings. A recently released video shows a herd of such robots pulling a truck down the street with ease.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- be grateful for Robert Mueller and the unlikely heroes who stood up to Trump's illegal/immoral demands.
- This 3-minute video features people from all races and walks of life, aged 0 to 100.
- Life on Earth, seen through the lens of National Geographic. [Pictorial]
- Finally, fake videos are used to spread the message of love and unity, instead of hatred and division!
- The beloved Persian song "Ey Iran," performed wonderfully as a tribute to Mohammad Nouri.
(6) Senator Rand Paul schools Mike Pompeo: This 7-minute video clip from a Senate hearing is rather old, but its message remains fresh. Paul, with whom I disagree on many issues, reminds Pompeo that the US cannot expect Iran to disarm unilaterally, while we arm Saudi Arabia to the teeth. Similarly, it is bizarre to demand that Iran not meddle in Yemen, without also chiding Saudi Arabia for the humanitarian crisis it has created there through indiscriminate bombing.
(7) Ten instances that constitute obstruction of justice, according to Mueller's report: Here's a summary. * Campaign's response to reports on Russian support for Trump * Conduct involving Comey and Michael Flynn * Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation * Firing of Comey and attendant explanations * Efforts to remove Special Counsel Mueller * Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence * Asking the AG to take control of the investigation * Asking McGahn to deny attempted removal of Mueller * Conduct towards Flynn and Manafort * Conduct involving Michael Cohen
(8) A key step toward realizing biocomputers: ETH Zurich researchers have integrated two CRISPR-Cas9-based core processors into human cells, marking a significant advance toward creating powerful biocomputers. A special variant of the Cas9 protein forms the core of the processor. In response to input delivered by guide RNA sequences, the CPU regulates the expression of a specific gene, which then makes a particular protein. The method allows researchers to program scalable circuits in human cells, consisting of two inputs and two outputs that can add two single-digit binary numbers. The cell computer could be used to detect biological signals in the body, process them, and respond accordingly.

2019/04/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Books wrapped in barbed-wire: Art by Dusko Vukic A very happy Passover and Easter to everyone! AG Bill Barr redacts Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Books wrapped in barbed-wire: Art by Dusko Vukic. [Center] A very happy Passover to all those who observe this Jewish holiday. Chag Sameach! And happy Easter to my Christian readers. (See item 2 below) [Right] Before tackling Mueller's report, Bill Barr practiced his redaction skills on Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.
(2) Happy Passover! This year, Passover and Easter coincide. The two holidays have common roots and similar traditions, but they can be separated by up to a month in some years. Passover, a spring Jewish festival, is observed based on the lunar calendar. To ensure that the holiday is synchronized with spring, the Jewish calendar adds a 13th month, Adar 2, to some years in order to make up for the 11-day difference between the lengths of lunar and solar years. This article has a nice explanation of the pertinent calendar adjustments.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Weaponizing drones is quite dangerous, so we must be very cautious about what we allow in this domain.
- The frightening power of water in river-rapids and waterfalls. [3-minute video]
- Unusual art: Painting blind-folded, upside-down, or sideways. [4-minute video]
- Turning the lowly egg into many interesting meals. [5-minute video]
(4) Proud to be a member of the UCSB community: The focus of last Thursday's meeting of UCSBs Faculty Legislature was awards and honors (even in the Chancellor's report).
- Faculty Research Lecturer: Nelson Lichtenstein (History)
- Faculty Diversity Award: Diane C. Fujino (Asian American Studies)
- Distinguished Teaching Awards: Six faculty members, all women.
- Distinguished Teaching Awards: Four TAs, all women.
- Graduate Mentor Award: Three faculty members, all women.
[Note that in a stunning sweep, all 10 teaching awards and all 3 graduate mentorship awards went to women!]
In his report to the campus, Chancellor Yang mentioned a number of important UCSB faculty honors: A Pulitzer Prize won by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Black Studies) for his book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, memberships in national academies, and many more.
(5) This afternoon's #UCSBGradSlam: Nine graduate-student finalists (7 of them women) presented 3-minute pitches describing their research for a chance to win a $5000 grand prize (George Degen) and a couple of $2500 runner-up prizes (Zachary Reitz; Taylor Heisley-Cook). The other 6 finalists got $750 each. [Photos] After the competition, there was a reception along with musical entertainment. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

2019/04/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A woman carrying a child in a basket over her head during Iran's recent floods Iranian boxer Sadaf Khadem's victory on the world stage is a first for Iranian women Meme of the day on women's rights and gender equality (1) Images of the day about women: [Left] During Iran's recent floods, a member of "the weaker sex" proves that the term is an oxymoron! [Center] Iranian boxer Sadaf Khadem's victory on the world stage is a first for Iranian women. [Right] On women's rights and gender equality.
(2) Bernie Sanders was a hit with the crowd at Fox News' town hall: Trump's reaction was bizarre, as if Fox News were a spouse who had been unfaithful to him!
(3) Iran used the Red Crescent (a humanitarian relief organization, similar to the Red Cross) as cover for Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operations in Europe, a retired Guards commander claims.
(4) I feel obligated to make a post about the redacted Mueller report released today, but I will wait for a day or two, until all the details have been analyzed and understood. [448-page document, accessible via this link]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Doctors in five US states charged with prescribing pain killers in exchange for cash and sex.
- Ivanka Trump says she declined World Bank job: She was considered because "she is good with numbers"!
- Canadians are advised to drink and not drive, now that beer is cheaper than gas! [Photo]
- Persian music: An old-style song whose lyrics also tell of a longing for the simpler, more joyful past.
(6) Last evening's technical meeting, sponsored by IEEE Central Coast Section: Dr. Pradeep Sen (UCSB) spoke under the title "Monte Carlo Denoising." Monte Carlo path-tracing replaces the very large number of computations, needed to determine the lighting of each image pixel by tracing all possible paths from different light sources to the pixel, by a random sampling of those paths. While this approach reduces the amount of computation significantly, it also makes the image quite noisy and thus unsuitable for "final frame" output. Even though Monte Carlo path-tracing was suggested as early as the 1980s, practical applications did not materialize until a few years ago, when effective and computationally efficient denoising techniques were devised. These new techniques had to overcome the difficulty of distinguishing random noise from scene details (such as texture) that can also look "noisy." The Monte Carlo denoising revolution is now recognized as one of two key enabling technologies that brought path-tracing to feature-film production at Disney and elsewhere. Despite significant improvements in the speed of denoising, which now allows rendering to occur in minutes rather than days or weeks, more work is still needed to bring rendering to real-time speed, which would be needed if virtual-reality exploration of buildings and other scenes, represented by 3D models, were to become possible. [IEEE Central Coast Section event page] [IEEE CCS calendar of lectures] [The speaker's home page]

2019/04/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: A page from the redacted Mueller report! Meme: This is the US President! Humor: Suggested letter for requesting Trump's tax returns (1) Memes of the day: [Left] A page from the redacted Mueller report! [Center] This is the US President! [Right] Tax humor, a day after Tax Day: Comedian Seth Myers suggests that the Democrats might have a better chance of getting Trump's tax returns if they use his English syntax and vocabulary in their request.
(2) Joke circulating in Iran after the unprecedented flooding: If only all the officials and reporters interviewing while standing in floodwaters got out of the water, the water level would go back to normal!
(3) A report on academic research into the old Iranian radio program "Golha" ("Flowers") and its successors such as "Golha-ye Rangaarang" ("Flowers of Many Colors"), which featured poetry and music
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Notre Dame Cathedral burned intensely, but the damage, though substantial, was less than expected.
- Besides Notre Dame, three other major losses occurred on April 15 (and I'm not even counting Tax Day)!
- The announcements board outside my office, as recently updated. [Photo]
- Nostalgia: Tehran of 1980, a year after the Islamic Revolution. [6-minute video]
- Persian music: Old-time singer Aref performs "Donya Do Roozeh" ("Life Is Very Short").
- Azeri music & dance: Joyful, rhythmic tune brings about some impressive dance moves! [3-minute video]
(5) Concealed bribe: The father of a current Harvard student bought the $550K house of the school's fencing coach for $990K (a $440K bribe). Harvard is investigating. [Source: Time magazine, issue of April 22, 2019]
(6) Displaying affection: Given that Joe Biden does not plant kisses on men's hair as a way of showing affection, his behavior toward women is at worst creepy, and at best, condescending.
(7) "Where Credit is Due": This is the title of an interesting feature in Time magazine (April 22, 2019) which deals with the achievements of female scientists being ignored or, even worse, wrongly credited to their male collaborators. Esther Lederberg (PhD in biochemistry, U. Wisconsin), is used as a case in point. She collaborated with and co-authored joint papers with her husband Joshua Lederberg, who eventually won a Nobel Prize for his work on upending the notion that bacteria always make identical copies of themselves when they reproduce.

2019/04/14 (Sunday): Reporting on today's lecture in the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran.
Photo showing Lalehzar Street in its early days Photo of Dr. Ida Meftahi, today's speaker Map of today's central Tehran, showing Lalehzar Street and its vicinity [Images, from left to right: Lalehzar Street in its early days; Dr. Ida Meftahi; Map of today's central Tehran, showing Lalehzar Street (extending from the map's top-center to its bottom-center) and its vicinity. For more images, see my Facebook post of this report, which also includes a Persian version of what follows.]
"Film and Discussion on Lalehzar Street: A Socio-Historical View": This was the title of today's talk by Dr. Ida Meftahi (U. Maryland). [Flyer 1, for today's lecture] [Flyer 2, for tomorrow's English lecture by Dr. Meftahi on a different topic]
Dr. Meftahi, who earned her PhD from U. Toronto and does research at the intersections of politics, gender, and performance, is the author of Gender and Dance in Modern Iran: Biopolitics on Stage, and she is now working on another book, a geo-political reading of Tehran's Lalehzar district and its vicinity; in the latter area, she is also directing the Lalehzar Digital Project, introduced in this 4-minute video.
Lalehzar, a relatively narrow north-south street in central Tehran, which runs parallel to the broader Sa'adi and Ferdowsi Streets on its east and west, was known as a center of arts and culture for many decades. The name "Lalehzar" means "Tulip-Grove." Theaters, cinemas, cafes, and night clubs, as well as fashion boutiques and other businesses (many of them new to Iran) lined its two sides between Shahreza (now Enghelab) Street on the north, through its intersection with Naderi (now Jomhoori) Avenue, another center of entertainment and commerce, and continuing further to the south.
I remember walking on Lalehzar Street as a young man, window-shopping and people-watching, usually en route to other destinations further south, including an area where there was a concentration of shops specializing in electronics and other tech items. I also frequented the Gutenberg Bookshop in the same general area that offered low-cost English books, printed in Russia, including many titles on science and technology that interested me.
After a brief introduction, Dr. Meftahi screened a 20-minute film composed of footage from Lalehzar Street over the years and commentaries from individuals who worked there or are otherwise familiar with the district.
[Link to the video will be added here when it becomes publicly available.]
For many years, European fashions arrived in Lalehzar boutiques mere days after they were introduced in the West. The bars offered billiards and other games to visitors. Early in the history of Lalehzar district, upper-class Iranians, foreign diplomats, and other dignitaries lived there and foreign embassies were either located there or on nearby streets. Bar and liquor stores operated legally in the pre-Islamic-Revolution days, but, even then, there was always tension and conflict between sellers of liquor and the police.
The period 1941-1953 is characterized by some as the golden era of arts and culture in the Lalehzar district. Foreign governments were engaged in propaganda, often competing with each other in the cultural domain, offering, on occasion, free theater performances and film screenings. Particularly targeted were society and culture influencers who received invitations to lavish parties and were showered with other perks, so as to take advantage of what the foreigners had determined to be a weak spot among Iranians: Praise for Iran's rich culture. The Soviet-sponsored Toudeh Party was particularly active in this domain, although Americans later joined the push.
The presence of allied soldiers led to much negativity in the way Iranians viewed the foreigners. Dancing the tango at night clubs, only a few years after Iranian women were ordered to remove their hijabs, did not sit well with many locals, and law enforcement often gave the operators of such night clubs a hard time. There was much sensitivity among men on Iranian women dancing or going out with foreigners. After the "Bread Riots" and the sensitivities just mentioned, British and other foreign subjects were directed by their governments to lie low and avoid showing up in public.
I am looking forward to perusing the book version of this very interesting talk upon its completion.
Postscript 1: Here is a related 2015 article by Jane Lewisohn (U. London), entitled "The Rise and Fall of Lalehzar, Cultural Center of Tehran in the Mid-Twentieth Century."
Postscript 2: A pictorial, entitled "The Delicious Lalehzar," about food and cafes on the historic street.
Postscript 3: I took these photos on the way to Los Angeles (the hills at Malibu Canyon, my favorite rest stop), and at UCLA's Dickson Court, which is adjacent to Dodd Hall, the lecture venue.

2019/04/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A quatrain by Omar Khayyam, 1 A quatrain by Omar Khayyam, 2 A quatrain by Omar Khayyam, 3 (1) Three wonderful quatrains from Omar Khayyam: [Left] English translation from the Web page of Omar Khayyam Poetic-Society ('Parveen' is Persian for 'The Pleiades'): A bull there in the sky they call Parveen, | Another bull beneath the Earth unseen. | Come, open your inner eye like that old sage, | And see the droves of asses in between. [Center] English translation by Sahand Rabbani: Some contemplate the way of piety; | Others assume doubt with certainty. | Suddenly a herald cries from his lair: | "O ignorant souls! neither path is reality." [Right] My English translation: The material things that you eat or wear, | You can be forgiven to pursue or bear. | Beware that all else is worth nothing, | Don't trade your precious life to get a share.
(2) Quote of the day: "This guy thinks he's CEO of America and it's a family-owned company. He doesn't have to answer to anybody." ~ Maine Senator Angus King, on Donald Trump
(3) On-line trolls target Dr. Katie Bouman, the young female scientist whose algorithm helped produce the first-ever image of a black hole. On the positive side, Bouman explains in this video the black-hole image and its significance, as well as what's next on her research agenda.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Should the president we elect in 2020 meet with Trump to seek advice on how to run the country?
- Kim Jong Un gives the US until the end of 2019 to show more flexibility in order to meet with Trump!
- Heart-breaking images of flooding and mud-flow in Iran. [3-minute video]
- World's biggest airplane flies and lands for the first time. [Spece.com report, including a video]
(5) The 10 greatest minds in mathematics: You may prefer to replace some of the names on this list, but their greatness is uncontested. [Pythagoras; Euclid; Archimedes; Euler; Isaac Newton; Carl Friedrich Gauss; Blaise Pascal; John von Neumann; David Hilbert; Alan Turing]
(6) Cash-for-admission is old news to UCLA: A girl, with an unimpressive running speed, was recruited by UCLA's track-and-field program after her parents pledged a $100,000 donation.
(7) An important advance in computer arithmetic: We can all do addition in linear or O(k) time, where k is the number of digits in the operands. The pencil-and-paper algorithm we use for multiplication requires O(k^2) steps. Computers have been using variations of the same algorithm, which is good enough for the kinds of numbers we encounter in everyday life. However, if you need to multiply two 1M-digit numbers, an O(k^2) algorithm needs on the order of 1 trillion steps. Beginning with the work of Anatoly Karatsuba and continuing with Arnold Schonhage, Volker Strassen, and many others, the complexity of multiplication was reduced to O(k log k log log k) and even less. It was conjectured that one can reach O(k log k), but no one knew how to achieve this optimal lower bound. The status of the 5-decade-old open problem changed in March 2019, when an algorithm achieving the lower bound was demonstrated by David Harvey and Joris van der Hoeven. I happen to be teaching a graduate course on computer arithmetic this quarter and am excited to share this news with my students, when we reach the topic of multiplication next week!

2019/04/12 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme about the contributions of Dr. Katie Bouman to producing the first-ever image of a black hole Images of #WhiteWednesdays, when Iranian women wear white headscarves and remove them in public in the face of arrests and imprisonments for doing so Enjoying a pleasant spring day in my courtyard (1) Images of the day: [Left] Even when women are praised for their contributions, sexism and condescension prevail. Someone fixed this meme to show greater respect! [Center] Kudos to Iranian women, who continue to defy misogynistic norms and attitudes by wearing white headscarves on #WhiteWednesdays and removing them in public in the face of arrests and imprisonments for doing so. [Right] Enjoying a pleasant, though a tad windy, spring day in my courtyard: If you have a beat-up, discolored, round lawn/patio table, I recommend the tile-patterned plastic cover that I have used to renovate it at a fraction of the cost of buying a new one.
(2) Try to imagine the cruelty: Trump wanted to capture asylum-seekers and drop them off at sanctuary cities. That is, he wanted to release hardened criminals (his characterization) among Americans who happen to disagree with his policies.
(3) Here are a few riddles for you (Source: AARP Bulletin, issue of April 2019):
- Q: Why should you never date tennis players? A: Love means nothing to them.
- Q: How do you weigh a millennial? A: In Instagrams.
- Q: What do you call a bike that tries to run you down every single day? A: A vicious cycle!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Pope Francis kisses the shoes of warring leaders in South Sudan in hopes of easing the conflict.
- What happened to the draining of the swamp? [Meme credit: @Public_Citizen]
- Using virtual reality to overcome phobias: One example is fear of public speaking.
- If someone you know suffers from anemia (low count of red blood cells), you may find this article helpful.
- Considering going to this music/poetry event, featuring work by Mowlavi (Rumi), on May 11.
- Santa Barbara Independent celebrates UCSB's Arts and Lectures program. [Cover image]
(5) Our country's story reads like a mystery novel: Based on the initial plot line, we thought Robert Mueller will call out Trump for his illegal acts, but he punted, leaving everyone bemused. It seemed that Rod Rosenstein was on the verge of being fired by Trump multiple times, but now he is defending Trump and his stooge AG Bill Barr. In an earlier plot twist, Senator Lindsey Graham switched from a harsh Trump critic to a stern supporter. Stay tuned, it's not over!

2019/04/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Golestan Palace Museum, Tehran, Iran What do you think of the suggestion that Facebook should add a skeptical emoji? Horseshoe Bend on Colorado River, near Grand Canyon, Arizona (1) Images of the day: [Left] Golestan Palace Museum, Tehran. [Center] What do you think of the suggested skeptical emoji for Facebook? [Right] Horseshoe Bend on Colorado River, near Grand Canyon, Arizona.
(2) An Iranian official's emergency management approach in the wake of unprecedented flooding in vast areas of the country: Putting Karbala's dirt on floodwaters to blunt their impact!
(3) Yasaman Aryani, who dared to remove her headscarf in public and handed flowers to hijab-wearing women as a sign of solidarity, has been arrested in Iran.
(4) Julian Assange of WikiLeaks arrested in London after Ecuador pulled asylum protection from him: Assange did not leak info for transparency but had a political agenda. He leaked selectively, never exposed his allies, and timed the leaks to coincide with political events. I don't consider him a hero or a defender of free speech but an egotist who tried to play king-maker and lost.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Sudan's military takes over in a coup, ousting Omar al-Bashir in the wake of months of protests.
- Ex-Pope Benedict XVI blames the sexual revolution and liberals for the church's sex abuse troubles.
- Jessica Powell, former Communications Director at Google, pens novel about male ego in Silicon Valley.
- NASA announces three finalists in its Mars habitat design competition.
- Malware in hospital computer systems can create fake cancerous nodes in CT-scans. [Washington Post]
- Cartoon of the day: "I wish I could get out of this gym membership contract!" [Image]
- Iran's Petroleum Museum: From the first gas station to a variety of gas pumps and other implements.
- "For me, glamour is celebrating what we have instead of what we long for." ~ Actress Isabella Rossellini (66)
(6) Cameras everywhere: US-based airlines have been asked to respond to reports of cameras installed in airplane seat-backs, including whether airlines have used them to monitor passengers and whether passengers have been informed of this practice. The airlines say the cameras are not currently operational, but are part of a new generation of systems offered by Panasonic and Thales, two of the biggest airline entertainment system manufacturers. Panasonic Chief Technology Officer David Bartlett says the devices allow passengers to have the same kind of interactive technology on board the plane that they do on the ground. The Airline Passenger Experience Association, a non-profit whose membership includes airlines, industry suppliers, and media groups, said its members were committed to obtaining customer permission before using the cameras. [Source: NYT]
Elsewhere, there are reports of Tesla installing cameras on its cars' rear-view mirrors, again raising privacy concerns. Tesla has responded that it will use the cameras only for its planned Uber-like service.
(7) It's one thing to mock powerful opposition figures who have ample resources to get back at you and quite another to ridicule the unfortunate and the distraught. [Meme]

2019/04/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
CIA's spy pigeon, deployed in the 1970s First-ever picture of a black hole, produced by an array of telescopes The secret to a long, healthy, loving relationship is to continue to sleep together into old age! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Spy pigeons: In the 1970s, CIA developed small cameras, with a tiny motor to advance the film and click the shutter. The cameras were strapped to homing pigeons that would fly over the area of interest en route to their home. Because the pigeons flew much closer to earth than spy planes or satellites, they produced detailed, high-quality information. Details of the camera design and where the pigeons were deployed are still classified (image and info from: IEEE Spectrum, April 2019). [Center] An array of telescopes, dubbed Event Horizon, has brought us the first-ever image of a black hole. Here is an explanation of how the image was produced by the telescopes, each collecting massive amounts of data in 2017; it took 2 years to put the results together to produce an image. [Right] The secret to a long, healthy, loving relationship is to continue to sleep together into old age!
(2) IRGC and terrorism: Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps isn't just a military unit, but a Mafia-like organization with tentacles controlling every aspect of the country's affairs (see this infographic, in which you can enlarge each part to read the details). It functions under direct orders from the Supreme Leader and has its own intelligence and judicial arms (including prisons). Even ignoring its foreign entanglements, IRGC is indeed engaged in terrorism against the Iranian people. Regardless of Trump's motives in declaring IRGC a terrorist organization (and he certainly has no love for the Iranian people), the designation is a correct one.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Calling out a cruel, despicable, amoral Jew isn't anti-Semitism; it's anti-monstrosity!
- The notion that "America is full" is more absurd than all the absurd musings of our unhinged president.
- Let's bring compassion (and good English) back to our leader: Make the Presidency Great Again! [Video]
- Alzheimer's, the new gold mine for scammers: Most purported treatments are bogus. [From AARP Bulletin]
(4) "Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do": This was the title of tonight's lecture at UCSB's Campbell Hall by Professor Jennifer L. Eberhardt (Stanford U.), based on her just-published book by the same title. Upon winning a MacArthur Genius Grant, Eberhardt decided to broaden the scope and increase the impact of her work by writing for the general public, rather than publishing in scientific journals, where each article garners a handful of readers. The result is her new book, which reports on her own research as well as findings by other scholars. Biases develop quite early in our lives. As early as 3-4 months old, babies exhibit a preference for people of their own race, which isn't surprising, because, in our segregated society, they see mostly people of their own race and learn to recognize and evaluate them better than those with unfamiliar faces. Given our cultural association of crime with blacks, in a setting where people were to decide very quickly whether to shoot at someone holding an object resembling a gun in a presented image, subjects tended to shoot at black suspects more often. And this is true even when the subject was black. Many other examples and case studies were presented throughout the talk and during an interesting Q&A period. The bottom line is that bias is real and very human. People exhibiting bias are not necessarily racist or morally deficient. Developing an awareness of such biases is the only way to remove them in the long run. [Images]

2019/04/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A flood-stricken house in Iran's Luristan Province Juicing lemons, with plans to use the juice on salads and to make lemonade Cover image of 'The Wife,' a novel by Alafair Burke (1) Images of the day: [Left] A flood-stricken house in Iran's Luristan Province: Cleaning up the mud that dries to cement-like hardness is a major undertaking. [Center] Juicing lemons, with plans to use the juice on salads and to make lemonade. [Right] Review of Alafair Burke's The Wife: A Novel (see below).
(2) Hate-Monger-in-Chief: An analysis by Washington Post found there was a 226 percent increase in hate crimes in counties that hosted a 2016 Trump campaign rally over those that didn't.
(3) Apologies issued for blocking Iranian scientists: NIH Director Francis Collins has apologized for new, unexplained security measures that blocked two Iranian graduate students from campus after they were asked to disclose their citizenship.
(4) "Towards Networks that Manage Themselves": This was the title of today's talk by Behnaz Arzani, post-doc scholar at Microsoft Research and UCSB CS faculty candidate (MS & PhD from U. Penn; BS from Sharif U. Tech, Tehran, Iran). Data center networks are massive and thus subject to failures. Dr. Arzani's research pursues a 2-step approach to network diagnostics. Her NetPoirot system identifies the type of subsystem responsible for the problem through monitoring coarse-grained TCP statistics. When the network is identified as the culprit, her 007 system pinpoints the device that is at the root of the problem, while quantifying the impact to various applications. An impressive topic and presentation! [Photos]
(5) Book review: Burke, Alafair, The Wife: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Xe Sands, Harper Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I picked this book, thinking that is was the basis for the Oscar-contending film by the same title, with Glenn Close in the title role. It turns out that the film's script was adapted by Jane Anderson from a Meg Wolitzer novel. The two stories with the same title have little in common, except for their female protagonists questioning their life choices upon getting married to famous, highly successful men. Despite my initial mistake, I wasn't sorry to have picked the book.
This is a thriller/mystery with multiple layers. The husband is accused of sexual misconduct and is subsequently revealed to be a serial philanderer. The wife vacillates between believing her husband, whom she still loves, that he has been framed and trying to get out of the marriage with her share of their assets, before the entire fortune is gobbled up by legal liabilities.
The story is well-conceived and the narrative is absorbing. I listened to this audiobook during my walks between home and office. On multiple occasions, I found myself continuing to listen for a while after arriving at the destination to learn some detail that was unfolding. I really can't write more about this modern "Me Too" domestic thriller a la Gone Girl, without disclosing one of the plot twists that make the book a page-turner.

2019/04/08 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Street art extraordinaire: Photo 1 Street art extraordinaire: Photo 3 Street art extraordinaire: Photo 2
Street art extraordinaire: Photo 4 Street art extraordinaire: Photo 5 Street art extraordinaire: Photo 6 (1) Street art extraordinaire: Artists and locations unknown.
(2) Iranian women's-rights activists to hijab wearers: If you want others to respect you for choosing to wear the hijab, you should respect other women who prefer not to. [Washington Post opinion piece]
(3) The real infighting in the Democratic Party isn't among presidential candidates but between old-guard Nancy Pelosi (2.4M Twitter followers) and newcomer AOC (3.9M followers). [CNN report]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Jewish-Americans offended by Trump referring to Netanyahu as their prime minister.
- Heavenly violin music, featuring David Garrett. [4-minute video]
- Persian music: Shahkar Bineshpajooh performs oldies, with the backdrop of pre-Revolution Iran (CGI?).
- Persian music: Beautiful performance on the bank of Zayandeh-Rood, Isfahan, Iran.
- Kurdish Music: Hassan Zirak performs "Kermanshah, My Sweet Town." [5-minute audio file]
- Coming up in Santa Barbara on May 19, at the historic County Courthouse: CAMA's 100th BD bash
(5) The US has declared Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization: As much as people of Iran want to defend their country against foreign pressure and intervention, they can't close their eyes to beatings, deportations, assassinations, oppression, and imprisonment carried out by IRGC. If these acts do not constitute terrorism, then what does? [Image of tweet by Masih Alinejad, in Persian]
(6) Shake-up at US Department of Homeland Security: Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, and other top officials resign or are fired.

2019/04/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Grand opening: A Target store finally opens in Santa Barbara Cover image for Abbas Amanat's 'Iran: A Modern History' Photos taken at Beth Macy's lecture entitled 'Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America' (1) Images of the day: [Left] A Target store finally opens in Santa Barbara: This one's a smallish 2-story outfit at the intersection of La Cumbre Road and State Street. A bigger one will soon open in Goleta to replace the recently-closed K-Mart. The nearby La Cumbre Plaza, where Santa Barbara's only Sears store has closed, is also undergoing changes: A Vons supermarket is being replaced by Bristol Farms; Macy's continues to anchor the shopping center. [Center] On my to-read list: Amanat, Abbas, Iran: A Modern History, Yale University Press, 2017. Audio version available from Tantor Audio, narrated by Derek Perkins. (Author's Web page at Yale) (Author's 143-minute interview with Iranian Republic Channel) [Right] Beth Macy's lecture (see item 4)
(2) Former Santa-Barbara-area Channel 3 news anchor Paula Lopez given jail time for drunken driving and other offenses: Lopez is married to retired SB Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa, so, special arrangements had to be made to avoid conflict of interest.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Science in America: The most important words ever spoken by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
- "Our Planet" establishes director David Attenborough as a forceful voice on dangers of climate change.
- Flood victims in Iran go from living independent, even comfortable, lives to accepting handouts to survive.
- A criticism of Saudi Arabia's Iran International TV, personally funded by MBS. [4-minute video, in Persian]
(4) Today's public lecture, offered as part of the Thematic Learning Initiative: UCSB's Campbell Hall hosted a lecture by author Beth Macy, entitled "Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America" (based on a book by the same title, that was provided free of charge to many attendees). Macy asserted that the opioid epidemic in the US is a multi-faceted problem that requires extensive cooperation at the federal, state, and local levels for its solution. The epidemic kills as many people as a jetliner crash every single day! We knew a long time ago that opioids are addictive, but this assessment was somehow overturned, leading to the promotion, over-prescription, and abuse of the drugs. Many parents remain unaware of their children abusing prescription painkillers or even shooting up heroin, until they find needles hidden in their closets. The federal government's response has largely been impotent: After promising to declare a national emergency over opioids, Trump declared only a public-health emergency, which provided no new funds or other resources for dealing with the problem. Ironically, the opioid overdose problem is worst in rural counties that are overwhelmingly pro-Trump. Raising awareness is the key. So, I will share my copy of the book with family members who care to learn about the issues.

2019/04/06 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine cover, showing Trump singin' in the rain in the aftermath of Mueller's report Time magazine cover: Uncle Joe's unforced error, yet again Time magazine cover: Climate change is transforming our planet, including Australia’s drought-impacted landscape (1) Recent Time magazine covers: [Left] Trump's "Singing in the Rain" celebration comes to an abrupt end. [Center] Uncle Joe's unforced error, yet again: Instead of moving on after his video pseudo-apology garnered positive reviews, he had to put his foot in his mouth again by joking about his physicality. We don't need another president who longs for simpler times and just doesn't get modern-day complexities. It's about making people uncomfortable, not about your intentions, uncle Joe! Here's another view on Joe Biden's recent woes, asserting that attacks on expressing affection promote toxic masculinity. [Right] Climate change is transforming our planet, including Australia's drought-impacted landscape.
(2) Flash mob atop Tehran's Nature Bridge: Keeping the true Iranian spirit in the face of sanctions, floods, and other natural/political disasters! [6-minute video]
(3) Anti-Science/Tech-in-Chief: Donald Quixote Trump declares war on wind turbines by claiming that they will leave you in the dark when the wind doesn't blow and that their sound causes cancer. Talk about hoaxes!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Report by Ethiopia points to software problem in airliner's crash, Boeing admits responsibility.
- Presidential selfie-stick: The Obama scandal that had Fox News foaming at the mouth.
- Backward-looking energy policies in a country that used to be technologically advanced. [Cartoon]
- Persian music, based on a melody by maestro Abolhassan Saba: "The Best Feeling"
- Scary that even the door-to-door religious crusaders know the languages you speak! [Persian pamphlet]
- Gorgeous day at UCSB and on West Campus beach, with unusually clear view on the SB Channel Islands.
(5) On rewriting history: An opposition journalist, who was jailed by the Islamic regime, tries to prevent the rewriting of Iran's history. By quoting from the diaries of Asadollah Alam, perhaps the late Shah's closest ally (Alam used to call himself a 'house-born' slave of his master), Akbar Ganji exposes the corruption and disarray that prevailed in the pre-Revolution Iran, something that Royalists and several other opposition groups sweep under the rug or, worse, whitewash by constructing an alternative history. Here's a review of Alam's diaries. [Disclaimer: I don't fully trust Ganji, but he does quote from Alam's diaries verbatim.]
(6) Attorney General William Barr's inaccurate 4-page summary of Mueller's 400-page report provided a favorable picture that Trump used to claim "complete and total exoneration." [Source: Time magazine]

2019/04/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Iranian officials are not worried about widespread devastation caused by floods Mueller's Report, depicted among best-selling books The panini generation: Sandwiched between obligations to children and parents (1) Today's cartoons: [Left] Iranian officials are not worried about widespread devastation caused by floods (from Iranwire). [Center] Publishers are scrambling to obtain the rights to publish Mueller's Report once it is released, hoping that it will become a best-seller like the Warren Commission Report. [Right] The panini generation: Sandwiched between obligations to children and parents (from Time magazine).
(2) Major US research universities are cutting ties with China's Huawei and ZTE because of security concerns. They are also exercising greater caution in their dealings with Russia and Saudi Arabia.
(3) A Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian walk on stage ... There is no joke here, just some prayers put to music and performed in front of the Pope during his visit to Morocco. [7-minute video]
(4) Who will be the next president of Ukraine: Yulia Tymoshenko, the seasoned politician who looks like a glamorous model, or Volodymyr Zelensky, the TV comedian whose unexpected rise took everyone by surprise? The incumbent Petro Poroshenko lags in the polls. [Source: Time magazine]
(5) Turing-Award-winning AI researcher Yoshua Bengio is speaking up about the perils of commercializing AI (face recognition, in particular) too soon. He also calls for more transparency in research and considers self-regulation quite dangerous.
(6) Software rejuvenation: It has been known for some time that like hardware, software also ages, in the sense of accumulating junk and ad-hoc patches that affect its reliability and performance. This is why returning the software to "factory settings" removes many common difficulties we encounter in day-to-day use. While the benefit of clean restarts isn't news to computing professionals and has been part of the field's folklore, it took a while to put this process of systematic and proactive rejuvenation on firm scientific footing. For their efforts in bringing about a better understanding of the software rejuvenation process in their seminal paper "Software Rejuvenation: Analysis, Module and Applications," Yennun Huang, Chandra Kintala, Nick Kolettis, and N. Dudley Fulton have been awarded the 2019 Jean-Claude Laprie Award in Dependable Computing.

2019/04/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Jake Shimabukuro performing on stage, Photo 1 Jake Shimabukuro autographing a skateboard after his performance at UCSB Jake Shimabukuro performing on stage, Photo 1 (1) Today's UCSB Arts & Lectures free noon concert: Jake Shimabukuro performed at the base of the Storke Tower, offering a combination of original song, Hawaiian favorites, and pop/rock classics. This super-talented artist does wonders with his 4-string ukulele. He said that he enjoys coming to UCSB and that he loves Santa Barbara. Like me, many of the attendees had brought their lunch to eat under the sun, while enjoying a wonderful concert. [Photos] [Opening song, an original composition] [The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby"] [Original composition paying tribute to Carlos Montoya, the guitar genius that, early on, Shimabukuro says he thought to be a 3-piece band, given the diverse musical sounds he made with a guitar!] [Demonstrating his mastery by reproducing electric-guitar sounds on a ukulele] [Performing the song that made him a YouTube sensation and jump-started his career, George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"] [Ending the hour-long concert with a Queen tribute, "Bohemian Rhapsody"]
(2) Today must be my lucky day: Besides being treated to a free concert by the super-talented ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro (see item 1 above), I received a compliment from a fortune cookie ("You have a charming way with words") that came with the to-go lunch I took with me to the concert and got a free copy of the "UCSB Reads" book for 2019, The Best We Could Do (by Thi Bui). Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cartoon of the day: The prospect of space tourism frightens Martians! [Image]
- The family that created, and directly benefits from, the US opioid crisis. [Cartoon]
- Dentist joke: If only our sweet tooth would listen to our wisdom tooth!
- Persian music: Fatemeh Mehla sings a sad, romantic song with her super-sweet voice.
(4) "Addressing Challenges to a Large-Scale Transition to a Low-Carbon Energy Future": This was the title of today's interesting talk by Ranjit Deshmukh (Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSB) under the auspieces of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. Renewable energy (RE) sources are abundant and their costs are rapidly declining. So, cost incentive is being added to clean-air and other environmental incentives for using renewable energy sources. However, large-scale deployment of RE generation facilities introduces serious challenges in planning and operating electricity systems in terms of balancing technical concerns with social and environmental objectives. Using examples from his research in Africa and India, the speaker highlighted methods of addressing these challenges. He also outlined ongoing projects on an open-source electricity grid modeling platform and a field study to understand incentives for increasing adoption of energy-efficient appliances (which tend to be more expensive) in low-income households of developing countries. [Images]

2019/04/03 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Chart: USA's military budget vs. other big-spenders (1) Illegal budget re-allocation: On Trump's orders, the US military has begun spending money on the southern border wall, using what it calls unneeded or leftover funds from existing projects. These excess funds seriously undermine the military's arguments for needing even larger budgets. [Chart: America's military budget vs. other big-spenders]
(2) An early morning walk in Goleta Beach Park: To prepare and gather energy for 11 straight hours of classes, office hours, and meetings, I went for an invigorating walk at the beach park near UCSB. Nothing is more invigorating than a dose of nature and the sound of ocean waves. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]
(3) Mixing vehicles with pedestrians on the UCSB campus: Walkways are generally out of bounds for motorized vehicles, although enforcement is sorely lacking at UCSB. This particular walkway has been designated as "mixed-use" so as to allow access to the parking lot behind the new Bioengineering Building. It is unbelievable that a modern, multi-million-dollar building was designed and built, without mitigating vehicular access to it, thus necessitating the mixed-use designation. Now, the entrance to the said parking lot is closed for repair work, causing vehicles to drive even further on walkways in order to gain access to the parking lot from its other side. I photographed a large FedEx truck doing this a couple of days ago (see April 1) and observed a sedan driving on a regular (not mixed-use) walkway yesterday. This situation is getting out of control!
(4) For my Persian-speaking readers: Humor as a coping mechanism for Iranians devastated by recent floods, after 40 years of oppression by a cruel and incompetent leadership. [Meme]
(5) Some good news, for a change: Greek and North Macedonian prime ministers pose for a historic selfie after ending a 30-year name dispute.
(6) March/April madness: Once again, talented college athletes are creating wonder and excitement on the basketball court, while NCAA, TV execs, and a bunch of others, who never set foot on the court or touch a basketball, pocket millions in proceeds. Isn't working for free while creating wealth for others a form of slave-labor? [Basketball-related cartoon from The New Yorker]

2019/04/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
pi vs. e: Are we over-valuing pi by celebrating it annually on 3/14? Meme of the day about Trump: Innocent or crook? Two more photos of spring 2019 in post-drought California's mountains and deserts (1) Images of the day: [Left] Are we over-valuing pi by celebrating it annually on 3/14? Some argue that the number e = 2.7182818... is even more important than pi, both scientifically and practically. Alas, there is no such date as 2/71 or 27/1! [Center] Meme of the day: Any reasonable person would pick option 2. [Right] Two more photos of spring 2019 in post-drought California's mountains and deserts.
(2) Today is Sizdah-Beh-Dar: Iranians celebrate the 13th day of Norooz, a day of communion with the Earth and nature (and, for the superstitious, getting rid of evil spirits by tossing them in the outdoors). Carrying out pranks (a la April Fool's) is one of the traditions on this day. When Sizdah-Beh-Dar falls on a weekday, it is often celebrated by Iranians in diaspora on a nearby weekend day (last Sunday, in the case of this year). [Image]
(3) Donating to flood relief efforts in Iran: US sanctions against Iran make some kinds of assistance impossible for Iranian-Americans. This article outlines what is and isn't allowed. In short, NGOs are exempted from the sanctions, whereas people acting individually are not. UNICEF USA is a top-rated charity that has a presence in Iran and has been helping. Before donating to other charities, please take a moment to research their goals, track record, and NGO status. [Flood photo]
(4) Comedy news trumps serious news: How Trump lied about supporting the Special Olympics and the Great Lakes (with amazing "deepness"), while cutting their fundings in his budget. [Seth Meyers' "A Closer Look"]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- I have checked out Moms Against Poverty's Iran Flood Relief and decided to donate to support them.
- Flood devastation continues in Iran: Kurdistan and Khuzestan are now in danger. [Aljazeera report]
- Scenes of flooding in the vicinity of Kermanshah and other parts of western Iran. [Three videos]
- Anonymous quote: Ignorance isn't lack of knowledge; it's resistance against knowledge.
- Expose about Lavasan, a playground near Tehran for Iran's richest people. [9-minute video, in Persian]
(6) Arguing for sex differences in IQ raises its ugly head again: The claim is that men are smarter than women, because in the upper IQ range of 130 or higher, men are more heavily represented than women. IQ and other tests are known to have gender and cultural biases. Given equal educational and economic opportunities, race and gender differences tend to vanish. American Psychological Association has concluded that women tend to be stronger on verbal abilities, while men perform better on visuospatial abilities, but there is no significant gender-related difference overall. Ditto for race.
[R. E. Nisbet, "Intelligence New Findings and Theoretical Developments," American Psychologist, 67(2), 2012]

2019/04/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, after the flooding Forty years ago today (on April 1, 1979), Iranians went to the polls to approve the establishment of an Islamic Republic, knowing little about what it meant Vehicle violating pedestrian space at UCSB, today (1) Images of the day: [Left] Tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, after the flooding. [Center] Forty years ago today (on April 1, 1979), Iranians went to the polls and sealed their fates by approving the establishment of an Islamic Republic, which was ill-defined at the time. These modern women certainly would not have approved of a system of government that restricts their clothing and infringes upon many of their basic rights as human beings. [Right] Vehicle violating pedestrian space at UCSB, today: This FedEx truck has no business driving on the walkway connecting UCSB Library to Engineering Buildings. I have brought these violations to the attention of campus administration continuously over many years (as we say in Persian, my tongue has grown hair from repeated complaints), but, alas, I have not seen any action.
(2) Bringing back pieces of the Ice Age to combat climate change: A fascinating 14-minute segment on Sunday's "60 Minutes" covered Siberia's Pleistocene Park, in which genius/madman Sergey Zimov and his family have taken on the nearly impossible task of reversing the melting of permafrost, said to contain more harmful greenhouse gases than the entire remaining fossil fuel on earth.
(3) The next technical talk of IEEE Central Coast Section: On Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at 6:00 PM, Dr. Pradeep Sen will talk about "Monte Carlo Denoising." [Flyer]
(4) Child marriages aren't just a Third-World problem: A majority of US states allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry and 17 states have no minimum marriage age. Opposition to establishing a minimum age for marriage comes from unexpected sources, such as ACLU.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- How many Mexican countries can you name? If your answer is "1," you should tune in to "Fox & Friends"!
- Plagiarism isn't a victimless crime, writes Adrian Bejan in the April 2019 issue of Prism magazine.
- Humor worth crying over: Islamic emergency management in Iran's regions devastated by floods!
- Persian music: Darya Dadvar sings a beautiful song about spring. [4-minute video]
(6) Persian music: On the 40th anniversary of the referendum that established the Islamic Republic in Iran, this song entitled "The Magic of Dancing" celebrates Iranian women who defy Islamic authorities and their absurd laws by dancing in public.
(7) At the end of April Fool's Day, and in anticipation of tomorrow's Sizdah-Beh-Dar (13th day of Norooz with its traditional lie), here is one of the best pranks of this year. [Image]

2019/03/31 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Proposed US Treasury bill bearing Trump's image 'New Yorker' cartoon of the day These two photos show a key reason for flood devastation in Shiraz, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Proposed US Treasury bill bearing Trump's image, in anticipation of his complaint regarding why the greatest president in US history does not appear on any bill. [Center] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "While I appreciate that you've turned your book report in early, 'It's about war and peace' doesn't cut it." [Right] These two photos show a key reason for flood devastation in Shiraz, Iran, that is, the criminal removal of a flood basin next to the city's historic entry arch and its replacement by a road.
(2) Trump thinks that Mueller's report exonerates him. Here's comedian Bill Maher's analogy: "Yes, the pregnancy test came back negative, but that doesn't mean you are a virgin!"
(3) Letter to researchers from NSF's Director of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), James Kurose, 3/25/2019: "Last week, the President presented the FY 2020 Budget Request, proposing $7.066 billion for NSF in FY 2020—a 12% decrease with respect to the FY 2019 Congressional Appropriations for NSF."
(4) On being a role model: "What you really need to do is show students how imperfect people can be and still succeed." ~ Karen Uhlenbeck, who on March 19 became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, a top award in mathematics (recall that Maryam Mirzakhani broke math's glass ceiling in 2014 by winning the Fields Medal)
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Stop AOC PAC" is established: How scared are old, white men of this young, inexperienced representative?
- Many MENA countries put environmentalists in prison, as drought and natural disasters take giant tolls.
- Istanbul's beautiful Hagia Sophia has served as both church and mosque over its long history.
- Watch the dynamics of relationships, from the initial meeting to nearly 5 decades later: 1970s vs. 2010s
- Brooklyn Duo's rendition of "Can't Help Falling in Love" (made famous by Elvis).
- Zeyn and Rhyan Shweyk of the duo SBPianoBoys play "Malaguena" on a single keyboard.
(6) Yet another manifestation of gender bias: At a 2015 rare-books fair in NYC, American writer A. N. Devers noticed that rare books by women authors were selling at a small fraction of the prices set for books by comparably famous male authors. Three years later, upon moving to London and joining UK's thriving rare-books trade, she opened the red doors to her new bookstore, "Second Shelf," which almost exclusively stocks rare books by women. [Info from Time magazine, issue of April 1, 2019]
(7) So long, spring break: My brief one-week break is over and UCSB's spring quarter classes will begin in full force tomorrow. The first week of the quarter will be quite hectic, given intensive academic advising and organizational workload, not to mention the administration of our twice-a-year PhD screening exam. I will settle into my usual routine by mid-April and will start the countdown to summer!

2019/03/29 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian human-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh on a Paris poster, which calls for her release This spring, California emerged from its very long drought: And it's a sight to behold! Jasmines, with heavenly fragrance, on my carport trellis, photographed today (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranian human-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh on a Paris poster, which calls for her release. [Center] This spring, California emerged from its very long drought: And it's a sight to behold! [Right] Jasmines, with heavenly fragrance, on my carport trellis, photographed today.
(2) Humor, for my Persian-speaking readers: Flooding has devastated northern and central Iran. Over the past decades, the government opted to imprison environmental activists, rather than heed their warnings about such disasters. Humor is one of the few coping tools left to the oppressed people of Iran.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A footnote in Barr's 4-page summary of Mueller's ~400-page report is causing some head-scratching.
- Iran spends 80 times more money on religious propaganda than on disaster relief. [Iranwire report]
- Scenes from flood damage in Luristan Province, western Iran. [1-minute video]
- Iranian civil-rights activist Sepideh Gholian writes a Norooz letter from prison. [Iranwire reposrt]
- Photographic art depicts contrasts in our world: Both horrifying and mesmerizing!
- The 2nd annual UCSB Arts Walk is coming during 3rd week of spring quarter (W 4/17, 4:30-8:00 PM).
- Extraordinary young musicians exhibit awe-inspiring skills on guitar (video 1) and pan-flute (video 2).
(4) New kids on the block: Today, near the Camino Real Marketplace Starbucks, a young man was playing the keyboard with skill and passion. I learned that he and his brother (Zein & Rhyan) form the SBPianoBoys duo (805-298-4009; sbpianoboys@gmail.com), which plays at events of various kinds. Today, they took turns playing. Here's the CD I got in exchange for a modest contribution. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(5) What I did on this last weekday of my spring break: I spent the day updating my spring 2019 course Web pages in preparation for classes beginning on Monday, April 1, 2019. Here are the links for the curious.
[ECE 1B] Freshman seminar, "Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering" (Wed., 3:30-4:50) [Image]
[ECE 252B] Graduate course, "Computer Arithmetic" (ECE 252B; Mon./Wed. 12:00-1:30) [Image]
(6) Final thought for the day: "There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." ~ Will Rogers

2019/03/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Today's 'New Yorker' cartoon blocked by Mitch McConnell Uniting Afghanistan through street art Cartoon: Mueller report, with 300+ pages, as abridged by Trump pal, AG Bill Barr (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon blocked by Mitch McConnell. [Center] Uniting Afghanistan through street art (Iranwire.com). [Right] Mueller report, with 300+ pages, as abridged by AG Bill Barr.
(2) Throwback Thursday: This week's cover feature of Santa Barbara Independent (issue of 3/28-4/04/2019) reminded me of many years ago, when we scrambled to find appropriate summer activities for the kids.
(3) Can't believe the US is negotiating with the Taliban, the same folks who put a bullet through Malala's head and routinely flogged women in public at sports stadiums during their rule!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Under intense pressure from all sides, Trump reverses Betsy DeVos on de-funding the Special Olympics.
- Political humor: Palestinians recognize Texas as part of Mexico and plan to move their consulate to Houston.
- Vehicle-friendly roads and driver distraction blamed for highest US pedestrian death rate in 30 years.
- Some articles in the April 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM, with a focus on computing in Europe.
(5) Mueller may have played it smart: Collusion charges are punishable only via impeachment, which is almost certain to fail in the current US Senate. Financial fraud and corruption are pursued by state courts, whose sentences are not influenced or pardonable by federal authorities. This is a quicker/surer way to get Trump.
(6) We will pay for the effects of climate change one way or another, whether we pass the Green New Deal and pay gradually or ignore the problem until we have to deal with the resulting trillion-dollar catastrophes.
(7) Jupiter, not Venus, is the planet closest to earth: Three researchers argue that determining closeness by the average distance between orbits isn't appropriate. Earth's orbit is closer to Venus's than Jupiter's, but the actual average distance from Earth to Venus is larger. Imagine two planets on the exact same orbital path, but always appearing at opposite ends of that path. Orbital distance between such planets would be 0, whereas their average distance may be quite large.
(8) What I did on my spring break 2019: It was going downhill from Monday's amazing visit to Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I did my taxes and this morning, I had a dental appointment. So, I decided to turn things around by taking a long nature walk this afternoon. Windy conditions made the afternoon perfect for sail- and kite-surfers. The sun and clean air turned my mood around, as the numbness in my mouth faded away! [Photos]

2019/03/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez on the cover of 'Time' magazine, issue of April 1, 2019 Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's tweet about the Mueller report (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Like any newcomer to politics, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will no doubt make mistakes and be attacked for them, but she seems to be a fast learner. Her tweet and Time magazines April 1, 2019, cover photo show her to be a rising star. [Right] Emerging alive from the torture-chamber of doing taxes: I was expecting to pay more compared with previous years, because of reduced withholding (Trump administration's way of creating the illusion that we are keeping a lot more of our hard-earned money), but the final outcome was unpleasant nonetheless! Having spent the third day of my week-long spring break as noted, I need to relax for the rest of the evening to get back to my normal self tomorrow!
(2) The 2019 puzzle: Each year, I try to use the digits in the year number, in their original order and without repetition, to form all the integers beginning with 0, using nothing but mathematical symbols and parentheses. I have neglected to do this for 2019, so here we go. The task was quite easy this year. In fact, I did not have to use parentheses, all the way up to 13. Here are my first five results, as examples. See if you can complete the list up to 24. In each case, try to use as few mathematical symbos as possible.
0 = 2 × 0 × 19    1 = 20 – 19   2 = 2 + 0 × 19   3 = 2 + 0 + 1^9  4 = 2 × 0 + 1 + √9
Try not to peek at these answers before giving the puzzle a serious try!
ACM's A. M. Turing Award winners for 2018: Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio (3) AI pioneers Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio are bestowed the highest honor in computing, Association for Computing Machinery's 2018 A. M. Turing Award, for "conceptual and engineering breakthroughs that have made deep neural networks a critical component of computing."
(4) Monica Lewinsky reacts to the Mueller report: Imagines how her life might have unfolded, had only a summary of Ken Starr's lurid report been released by the then Attorney General.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Republicans introduce a mock amendment to the Green New Deal legislation. Here is AOC's response.
- Trump administration launches a new all-out war on Obamacare, this time aiming to scrap the entire law.
- Remains of the world's biggest T-rex, weighing 9.8 tons, discovered at a fossil site in Canada.
- The list of ten oldest languages still spoken in the world includes Persian/Farsi.
- Italy's La Scala opera house is returning a $3.4 million donation to Saudi Arabia in protest.
- Forget about tree-houses: Go for 3D-printed concrete castles in your backyard! [6-minute video]
(6) A comprehensive and wide-ranging 144-minute interview (in Persian) with Dr. Nayereh Tohidi about the history and current status of women's rights in Iran, 40 years after the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

2019/03/26 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Street has turned into a river and cars have piled up in the central Iranian city of Shiraz Shirazis offering free lodging and food to flood victims The ancient drainage system of Persepolis fared better than those of the modern city of Shiraz in disposing of substantial rain water (1) Relentless downpours and flooding in Iran: [Left] The photo and this video show the central city of Shiraz, mere days into the Iranian new year. Here's another frightening scene of extreme flooding in Shiraz. And Tajrish, northern Tehran, faces scenes like these from some 3 decades ago. [Center] People of Shiraz are showing extreme compassion and generosity toward flood victims, including tourists trapped in the city due to road closures, by offering them free lodging and food. [Right] Forward-looking design: Underground canals at Persepolis, built 2500 years ago, drained all the water from sustained downpours remarkably well, as the city of Shiraz nearby suffered extensive damage from flash-floods and mud flows.
(2) Mueller's report is different from a 4-page summary of it, prepared by a Trump ally who believes a President cannot obstruct justice. Meanwhile, Trump has resumed his attacks on Obamacare as a way of deflecting attention from demands to release the full Mueller report. He isn't as clueless as many think!
(3) Eight-year-old Nigerian refugee becomes New York State's chess champion: Tanitoluwa Adewumi hopes to be able to move out of a NYC homeless shelter after a crowdfunding campaign raised $100,000 for his family.
(4) Four very likable women join the Apple team: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, and Rashida Jones have become "Apple Girls," slated to work on programming for Apple's media streaming outlet.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A Russian-born American businessman made (perfectly legal) large contributions to the Trump campaign.
- First all-female spacewalk cancelled by NASA, because they couldn't find space-suits in proper sizes!
- Persian music on santoor and donbak, played by two unidentified women. [1-minute video]
- Toby the Devil directs people arriving in Hell: Hilarious 5-minute comedy routine by Rowan Atkinson.
(6) Here is a capsule summary of the proposed Green New Deal: Will America be brave enough and forward-looking enough to enact a program that our children and grandchildren will look back on with pride, as we now do for Medicare and Social Security? [Image credit: Time magazine]
(7) Today's bounty: I did some shopping at Santa Barbara's European Market, our area's inadequate substitute for a full-fledged Persian Market. Among the items I bought are healthy sweet lemons and a big jar of white mulberry jam (product of Armenia), which I have divided up for distribution among family members as treats.

2019/03/25 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
One of the entrances to the library at Huntington Estate Orbit Pavilion at Huntington Library and Gardens A tasteful combination of architecture and art at Huntington Library and Gardens (1) My excellent adventure at Huntington Library and Gardens: Here is how I spent the first day of my week-long spring break (images, 1). Setting out from Santa Barbara on a chartered Airbus, we arrived at the Library in Pasadena around 11:15 AM. After a short break, my group began a 1-hour docent-led tour of the grounds (images, 2), which did not entail entering any buildings or going to the far corners of the 120-acre estate.
We then had less than 2 hours to explore the magnificent estate on our own, before reconvening at the drop-off point for the return trip. With so much to see, I decided to skip lunch and to pick up a sandwich from the 1919 Cafe (that's the establishment year for the research institution, celebrating its centennial this year) just before returning to the bus.
I spent my remaining time at two special library exhibits: "Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World," old science books and other artifacts in the main exhibit, along with newer books on display in a reading room (images, 3), and "Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times," an exhibit of old books, drafts, personal notes, and letters written by giants of the literary world, including a fascinating 6-foot-tall book containing life-size drawings of birds (images, 4). I could have spent three times as much time at this unique library, which is world-renowned for its collections accommodating 1700 scholars annually.
I also recorded two videos. Video 1 shows a stroll through Shakespeare Garden. Video 2 shows the Library's Orbit Pavilion, a NASA installation that represents the space Station and 19 science satellites with distinctive sounds (related to their missions) as they pass overhead. Because most visitors don't have the patience to wait for hours, the entire cycle is compressed into 2 minutes.
There are two other components to the estate. First, there are expansive botanical gardens, which include separate Chinese, Japanese, Australian, subtropical, rose, herb, jungle, palm, ranch, desert, and Shakespeare gardens. Second, there is an impressive art collection encompassing 36,000 works of art.
So, I will need 2-3 more visits to cover all areas of interest. The estate's Web site provides much useful information for learning about its resources, upcoming events, and visit planning. I saw quite a few cherry blossoms today. The Rose Garden will be in full bloom in April, for those who like roses.
If you live in Southern California or plan to visit here, put Huntington Library and Gardens on your to-see list!
(2) Many have opined that impeaching Trump is a bad idea, citing the potential for additional conflicts and divisions, compared with letting the voters decide in 2020. I'm fine with these reasonings, but where were these commentators when Clinton's impeachment was given the green light?
(3) Streamlining of regulations sounds great, until events such as Boeing 737 Max crashes occur. Congress repeatedly pressured FAA to speed up its certification process. Let's hope that the safety of our bridges, levees, dams, ports, and nuclear power plants has not been similarly compromised.

2019/03/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
On the mystery of gasoline prices in the Santa Barbara area: Mobil gas station at the intersection of Glen Annie Road and US 101 Hyacynth and other spring flowers Earth Hour: Turn off your lights for one hour, beginning at 8:30 PM local time, on Saturday, March 30, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Mobil gas station at the intersection of Glen Annie Road and US 101: See the last item below (photo from Santa Barbara Independent). [Center] Hyacynth and other spring flowers arrive with Norooz: I have added my latest Norooz poem to my poetry Web page, which now contains the entire collection of my Norooz poems since 2002, except for those of 2006 & 2012 (Norooz 1385 & 1391). I am trying to locate the missing two and will post them if/when I find them. [Right] Earth Hour: Turn off your lights for one hour, beginning at 8:30 PM local time, on Saturday, March 30, 2019.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A prolific activist from Santa Barbara: Ady Barkan, a little-known hero for progressive causes, is dying.
- For youth who want to engage in summer jobs that make a difference, while gaining valuable experience.
- Islamic Iran: Watch what happens to an 8-year-old's beautiful smile upon being told she shouldn't dance!
- Persian music: This 4-decades-old video contains an hour of music from Norooz TV specials. Enjoy!
(3) [Musings of a curious mind] The mystery of gas prices in Santa Barbara: Whenever I return home via northbound US 101, I take the Storke/Glen-Annie exit and drive by a Mobil gas station at the end of the off-ramp. What is unique about this station is that its gas prices are routinely $1.50-2.00 per gallon higher than some other stations in the area.
Who'd buy gas at 50-70% higher price than other area stations? Desperate northbound motorists who are running low on gas and shortly before the Stork Road exit notice a sign on the side of the freeway warning them that there are no motorist services for the next 30 miles, that's who! As such motorists, often unfamiliar with the area, exit the Freeway to get gas, the Mobil station is the first thing they see, and no other station appears in sight.
This practice is despicable, but not illegal. There are no penalties for selling at unreasonably high prices in the US, except immediately after natural disasters. Competition is supposed to offer protection against price-gouging. You can buy gas at $2.50 per gallon and sell it for twice that price if you can find a buyer.
On purely economic grounds, a much higher price may be beneficial to the seller. Suppose gas costs $2.50 per gallon to station owners. If you sell it for $3.00, you make a $0.50 profit per gallon. If you sell it for $5.00, your profit is 5 times as much, so you come out ahead if the number of buyers exceeds 1/5 that of a typical station. And that sign on the freeway essentially guarantees that you have enough customers to turn a higher profit than other stations.
According to Santa Barbara Independent, issue of March 21-28, 2019, Jing Xu, a graduate student at UCSB who was similarly baffled by the huge price differences, decided to conduct a study of gas prices in the Santa Barbara area. He developed a model that allowed him to relate gas prices to various parameters, including location, nearby competition, crude oil market, transportation charges, proximity of businesses such as restaurants, land zoning, brand recognition, and the like.
In most cases, variations reasonably matched the predictions. In the Santa Barbara area, three stations were outliers (price gougers). In addition to the Mobile station at Glen Annie Road and US 101, mentioned above, the research exposes a Chevron station at the intersection of Highways 154 and 246 in Santa Ynez Valley (which has almost no competition) and a 76 station at the intersection of Carpinteria and Linden Avenues in Carpinteria (which enjoys proximity to restaurants, bars, and the beach).

2019/03/23 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Visually plelasing photos: Perfectly-aligned trucks Visually plelasing photos: Colorful fligt of stairs Visually plelasing photos: Perfect gift-wrapping (1) Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: [Left] Perfectly-aligned trucks. [Center] Colorful fligt of stairs. [Right] Perfect gift-wrapping.
(2) On symmetry: While there are situations where symmetry becomes problematic, leading to the need for symmetry-breaking to resolve an impasse, it is predominantly a highly desirable attribute. In interconnection networks, for instance, symmetry leads to routing efficiency and greater robustness. In this journal article, Dr. Chenggui Zhao and I have used symmetry to improve the quality of virtual network embedding.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- University of California responds to Trump's executive order on free speech.
- The exact moment of spring equinox at the tomb of Hafez in Shiraz, Iran. [1-minute video]
- Abstract painting: "Life Bloom," Kamran Khavarani's 28" × 40" depiction of flowers. [Image]
- People of Kermanshah celebrate Norooz at the historic Tagh-e Bostan. [Photos]
- Norooz celebration at a village in Marivan, Kurdistan, Iran. [Photo]]
- Persian music: Darya Dadvar sings a beautiful song whose name I do not know. [5-minute video]
- Persian music: An a-cappella performance of "Waltz-e Noroozi" ("Norooz Waltz"). [2-minute video]
- Iranian music: A montage of songs and dances from several regions of Iran. [6-minute video]
(4) Ahmadinejad-like politicians in the US: Trump possibly sent by God to save Israel from Iran, according to Mike Pompeo, responding to a cue about Queen Esther saving Iranian Jews from a massacre.
(5) Mike Pomepo: Trump was sent by God to save Israel from Iran. [This God is pretty sneaky; he first sends Khamenei to destroy Israel and then Trump to protect it! Maybe He will send someone to save us from Trump!]
(6) The French will pay for the wall: Part of the $1.3 billion fine on Societe Generale, a French bank which has admitted to violating US sanctions on Cuba and Iran, to be funneled for funding Trump's wall.
(7) Far from paying for the wall, Mexico is stealing it, piece by piece: Barbed wire installed on the wall is showing up at Mexican homes. "I built a wall around my house and Trump paid for it!"
(8) Largest cities in the world, 1500-2018: The dynamic list begins with Beijing at the top, with Istanbul prevailing for more than a century, followed by Beijing, London, New York, and Tokyo. From Iran, Tabriz and Esfahan appear on the list for brief intervals, before falling off the list.

2019/03/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: Watermelon square Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: Perfect rows of flowers Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: Roots between tiles (1) Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: [Left] Watermelon square. [Center] Perfect rows of flowers. [Right] Roots between tiles.
(2) Freedom of (hate) speech: The President who exercises freedom of speech daily but turns blue when others do, signs executive order to protect freedom of speech on college campuses. It's easy to see why he has singled out college campuses, instead of supporting the basic freedom unequivocally.
(3) Money-saving decisions that turned deadly: The Boeing 737 Max aircraft involved in Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes were not equipped with two "premium" safety options offered by The Boeing Company.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At least 70 die during Norooz celebrations when an amusement-park boat sinks on Iraq's Tigris River.
- Trump continues to sabotage Mid-East peace prospects: The US recognizes Golan Heights as part of Israel.
- Cartoon of the day: "Is it too early to start contributing to a college bribe fund?" [Image]
- Skydivers put on a spectacular show in LA to draw people's attention to the last supermoon of 2019.
(5) The Linda Problem: Also known as the conjunction fallacy, the problem is an illustration of how our minds are led astray during judgments/decisions by our expectations and what we deem to be representative of the situation. Here is the description of Linda given to participants in a psychology experiment: "Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations."
Then, participants were asked to rate the likelihood that Linda is one of eight possible kinds, including the two key types "bank teller" and "bank teller who is active in the feminist movement" (the other six types were there to camouflage the point of the experiment). Logically, the bank-teller option, which includes the latter as a special case, is at least as likely to be true as the more specific kind (conjunction of "bank teller" & "feminist"). However, most participants tended to choose the more specific description as more likely than the broader one.
Another example entailed asking policy experts to assess the probability of the US breaking off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union versus the probability that the Soviet Union would invade Poland and the US will cut diplomatic ties. In this case, the more specific option was viewed as 4 times as likely (4% vs. 1%).
One take-away from these experiments is that we really do not choose between options but between descriptions or framings of options. Restating the Linda problem can reduce or even eliminate the fallacy altogether. Another take-away is that the rational human, assumed in older economics models, is nothing but a myth. We are emotional decision-makers.
By the way, problems like this one led to a psychologist (Daniel Kahneman) winning the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics. See my review of the book The Undoing Project, posted yesterday.

2019/03/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Michael Lewis' 'The Undoing Project' One of the few remaining large open spaces on the UCSB Campus, with majestic trees, which has, unfortunately, been designated as the site of a future building Congressman Steve King's social-media post about Civil War II (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover image for Michael Lewis' The Undoing Project (see my review below). [Center] One of the few remaining large open spaces on the UCSB Campus, with majestic trees, which has, unfortunately, been designated as the site of a future building. [Right] Trump and his allies are promoting Civil War II, which they think they would win: This image is from a social-media post by Congressman Steve King.
(2) Book review: Lewis, Michael, The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Dennis Boutsikaris, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The friendship referred to in the subtitle is between Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. And the title's 'Undoing' refers to changing prevalent theories of how the human mind works. The two friends bounced ideas off one another and constituted a story-like research team, although Tversky was later given a lion's share of the credit in terms of academic recognition and honors, leading to the eventual break-up of the team; Kahneman was eventually honored with a 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, after Tversky had died.
The groundbreaking collaborative research of the two friends also formed the basis of Lewis' previous best-seller Moneyball, which chronicled the Oakland A's data-driven approach to building a winning baseball team, but the work of Kahneman and Tversky wasn't properly credited in the earlier book. In this book, Lewis corrects the oversight by telling the rest of the story. Other books of Lewis include The Blind Side, The Big Short, and Flash Boys.
The key thesis of the two friends' work was that far from being rational players, as assumed in the then-common economic models, human beings tend to make irrational or emotion-driven decisions, even when they have hard facts at hand. And this irrationality is no less true of supposed experts in the field than of the person on the street. A lot of our bad decisions arise from projecting certainty, via justifications and story-telling, where there is none.
Notions elaborated upon in this book include 'confirmation bias,' 'law of small numbers,' 'regression to the mean,' and 'prospect theory,' the latter being a formalization of decision-making under uncertainty that incorporates relative as opposed to absolute values, while also accounting for human beings' tendency to be loss-averse or conservative.
Our weakness in estimating probabilities, key components in rational decision-making, prompted Tversky to describe his collaboration with Kahneman as a study of 'natural stupidity,' rather than 'artificial intelligence'! Learning about this weakness, a form of systematic bias, and other shortcomings of our brains, which have not evolved to deal with tricky or complicated situations, are eye-opening, making the book a must-read for all curious minds interested in ideas at the intersection of psychology and economics.
Also recommended are Michael Lewis' 6-minute interview with Stephen Colbert about The Undoing Project and his 7-minute interview with PBS about The Fifth Risk.

2019/03/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Norooz greetings in Persian calligraphy Wishing you a very happy Norooz My Persian poem honoring Norooz and Women's Day Farhang Foundation's banner art for Norooz (1) Happy Norooz/Nowruz and Iranian New Year to everyone: May you enjoy nature's renewal with the arrival of spring and may the new Iranian calendar year 1398 bring you and yours greater joy, health, and prosperity! Spring equinox (saal-tahveel) is today at 14:58:27 PDT. This article, by Davood N. Rahny, is a good source of information about the origins and traditions of Norooz. [Credit for banner images: Farhang Foundation]
[P.S.: I am including my poem honoring Women's Day and Norooz, which first appeared as a post on March 8.]
(2) Californian John Pierre Dupont, 80, has been arrested for scamming $250,000 from unwitting donors who believed they were sending money to various political candidates: So, instead of helping those who promised to confront the 1%, they were funding the lavish lifestyle of a millionaire-turned-criminal.
(3) Love in your 60s and 70s: "When you have that feeling, when you have a mad, passionate crush on someone, it's the same when you're 70 as when you're 13. You're awkward, and you're afraid you're doing the wrong thing, and you put yourself out there in ways you don't even think about. We stay who we are no matter how old we get," ~ Actress Sally Field
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tonight's sky-watching treat for the Iranian New Year: The last supermoon of 2019 will be spectacular!
- After a week-long struggle with cough and congestion, this New Yorker cartoon resonated with me!
- New Zealand bans military-style rifles less than a week after the recent mass shooting: It can be done!
- T-shirt meme of the day: "Make Orwell Fiction Again" [Image]
- Ideas for decorative fruit arrangements: If you have the time and the inclination! [4-minute video]
(5) A win for Santa Barbara County environmentalists and UCSB: The historic Platform Holly, right off the coast of UCSB, has been inactive for a few years and is now owned by the State, following its owner's bankruptcy. Sealing of the wells is planned, but the platform's future is unknown. [Map] [LA Times story]
(6) IEEE Central Coast Section professional-development talk: Dr. Walter Whipple spoke today under the title "Job Shopping for Fun and Profit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Temporary Assignments in the Gig Economy." Dr. Whipple provided advice and resources on temporary assignments, from identification to completion. Comparisons were provided between the two types of temporary assignments, W-2 and 1099, and between such assignments and ordinary salaried jobs. [Event site] [IEEE CCS speakers line-up]

2019/03/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A group of people jumping on a protruding rock Salad, made with nine different ingredients: Lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, celery, green pepper, red pepper, radish, strawberry Painting: Woman dancing next to a bonfire on the Iranian fire-jumping festival (1) Images of the day: [Left] A s an engineer, I wouldn't do that, if I were you! [Center] Salad, made with nine different ingredients: Lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, celery, green pepper, red pepper, radish, strawberry. [Right] Anceint Iranian fire-jumping festival: Dating back to at least 1700 BCE, Chaharshanbeh-Suri, the fire-jumping festival held in the evening of the last Tuesday of the year in the Iranian calendar, is a joyous occasion when people make bonfires on the streets or in parks and jump over the flames, with ritual singing and dancing. This 1-minute video shows Chaharshanbeh-Suri rites at a historic mountainside Kurdish village.
(2) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talks: As Chair of the Education Committee for IEEE CCS, covering Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, I invite everyone to the following technical talks, which begin at 6:00 PM on the third Wednesday of each month during 2019. Details, including info about venues, will be published on this Web page as we get closer to each talk. The next talk on Wed. 3/20 will be held at Rusty's Pizza, big meeting room, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta, CA 93117, with pizza, salad, and drinks served before the talk.
- 02/20 Dr. Behrooz Parhami, UCSB ("Promoting Technological Literacy through Mathematical/Logical Puzzles")
- 03/20 Dr. Walter L. Whipple, former Chair of IEEE CCS ("Job Shopping for Fun and Profit"), scheduled*
- 04/17 Dr. Pradeep Sen, UCSB (Area: Visualization/computer-vision), confirmed*
- 05/15 Dr. Katie Byl, UCSB (Area: Robot control and navigation), confirmed
- 06/19 Dr. B. S. Manjunath, UCSB (Area: Advances in deep learning), to be confirmed
- 07/17 Dr. Dmitri Strukov, UCSB (Area: Emerging technologies for alternative computing), confirmed
- 08/21 Dr. Tali Freed, Cal Poly SLO (Area: RFID technology and applications), confirmed*
- 09/18 Dr. Yasamin Mostofi, UCSB (Area: Advances in robotics), confirmed
- 10/16 Dr. Mahnoosh Alizadeh, UCSB (Area: Sustainable and resilient societal infrastructure systems)
- 11/20 Dr. John Bowers, UCSB ("Energy-Efficient Computing and Communications"), confirmed*
- 12/18 Stay tuned: Scheduling in progress
(3) "Enabling Ubiquitous Artificial Intelligence with Algorithm-Hardware Co-Design": This was the title of today's talk by faculty candidate Priyadarshini Panda, Graduate Research Assistant, Purdue University. Ms. Panda described methods for exploiting the inherent variability in the difficulty of input data to scale down the computational requirements of a deep learning network with minimal impact on performance. She also presented the advantages of a temporal learning scheme to address catastrophic forgetting in spiking neural networks. She concluded by discussing how algorithm-hardware co-design techniques hold promise for understanding the energy-accuracy tradeoff, as well as, gauging the robustness of learning systems. [Images]

2019/03/18 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Visually pleasing photo: Spiral book display Visually pleasing photo: Moroccan market spices Visually pleasing photo: Bowl of coins (1) Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: [Left] Spiral book display. [Center] Moroccan market spices. [Right] Bowl of coins.
(2) Prospects for actual quantum computers: To the question of when quantum computers will be built and applied for real, optimists will reply with "in 5-10 years" and pessimists will cite a 20- to 30-year time frame. But these predictions have remained the same for a couple of decades! The number of papers published on quantum computing has risen dramatically (see chart), but progress towards putting together thousands of qubits (many millions, if errors are to be kept in check through redundancy) needed in a practical quantum computer has been slow. [Source: Article by physicist Mikhail Dyakonov, in IEEE Spectrum, March 2019]
(3) Talk about marital disagreement! Kellyanne Conway thinks of Trump as a superhero who can do no wrong. Her husband George Conway is on a mission to convince people that Trump is mentally ill.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Remember Goodness": Words seen at New Zealand mass murder site by a hate-filled White Nationalist.
- Attacking a dead national hero is a sign of cowardice and moral atrophy.
- Blaming the victims: The male-dominated Vatican blames nuns for seducing men of God! (#NunsToo)
- Daily low-dose Aspirin no longer recommended for healthy older people with no on-going heart problems.
- A new medal, the "Purple Broken Heart," awarded to military women raped by comrades-in-arms. [Cartoon]
- A new style of body painting: Artist paints a man's face and hand to create eerie 3D effects.
- Persian music: "Ey Iran" anthem, performed by adorable young kids, starting with a story-like narrative.
- Iranian music: Spring message from Rastak Ensemble, along with a medley of spring-related songs.
(5) Recent crashes of Boeing 737 MAX planes were caused by defects in an angle sensor, whose problems were known as far back as 2014. It is now clear the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes were related.
(6) Final post for the day: At the end of an eventful day, when my mom underwent a heart procedure (she is in good shape and great spirits), I had my final exam, and my daughter came home after her final exam, I am posting a photo of my haft-seen with two main differences compared with previous postings: My hyacinth is now in full bloom and I have added an extra "seen" in the form of unjustly-convicted human-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, with the hopes that she will spend this and many future Norooz celebrations with her family!

2019/03/16 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Visually pleasing photo: Converse-ation circle Visually pleasing photo: Tomatoes on the vine Visually pleasing photo: Vortex frozen in time (1) Visually pleasing photos that can make you smile: [Left] Converse-ation circle. [Center] Tomatoes on the vine. [Right] Vortex frozen in time.
(2) ABC News' "20-20" special on Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes: Aired at 9:00 PM on Friday 3/15, the 2-hour program exposes how a Stanford drop-out, shaping herself in the mold of Steve Jobs, fooled investors and FDA by pretending that her company had the technology to do almost any blood test on a single drop of blood drawn from a patient's fingertip. Once the scam was exposed, the first self-made female billionaire crashed fast and her highly-valued company became worthless overnight. A cautionary tale about naked ambition, greed, and those who enable shameless behavior (much like what is happening in the US political arena today). [A series of ABC News videos, from different programs]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Parts of the Trump-Russia dossier verified by a company Buzzfeed hired to defend itself against a lawsuit.
- A nurse working for the late Stephen Hawking has been reprimanded for financial/medical misconduct.
- Do you see the difference between how radical Islamic terror and far-right Christian terror are reported?
- On feminism: Feminism isn't entirely about women; it's more about human dignity and freedom of choice.
- Persian music: Medley of several songs about Norooz, spring, and renewal of nature. [5-minute video]
- Persian Music: Another popular song about Norooz, performed beautifully on a rooftop.
(4) The Internet is more fragile than we thought: Facebook learned the hard way that the more tightly it integrates its various services (including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger), the more vulnerable they become to the cascading effect of a technical glitch. This is what happened recently, when a problematic server configuration change triggered a 24-hour outage of many Facebook services.
(5) Advanced malware: As we continue to patch our software systems to reduce their vulnerabilities to hacking, hackers have moved to exploiting hardware-level vulnerabilities to infiltrate our systems in order to install malware. Spectre and Meltdown used an inherent feature of modern pipelined CPUs, that is, speculatively-executed instructions and what happens after misspeculation. The timing of instruction execution depends on the success or failure in branch prediction, creating a type of side channel (a feature that provides information about the system, without being intended to do so) to extract information about data access patterns and, eventually, the data values themselves. [Source: Article by N. Abu-Ghazaleh, D. Ponomarev, and D. Evtyushkin in IEEE Spectrum, March 2019]

2019/03/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB administration, faculty, staff, and students stand in solidarity with Muslims around the world and against hate-filled ideologies of all kinds My jasmines, up close and personal: Still not fully in bloom The ultimate invention for the couch potato is now on the market! (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCSB administration, faculty, staff, and students stand in solidarity with Muslims around the world and against hate-filled ideologies of all kinds; see item (2). [Center] My jasmines, up close and personal: Still not fully in bloom. [Right] The ultimate invention for the couch potato is now on the market!
(2) Terrorism in New Zealand: At least 49 dead and about the same number injured in mosque shootings, which the gunman live-streamed. The suspect, a self-identified White Nationalist, had posted hateful messages on social media. Trump does not see White Nationalism as a rising threat.
(3) Humorous Persian poetry: Mr. Haloo's message to now-dissident Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush, one of the hardliners in the early days of the Islamic Republic and someone who did much damage to Iranian universities by pushing his antiquated idea of making the curricula "Islamic."
(4) A young investigative reporter reveals how certain Iranian officials and individuals connected to political power centers embezzle many millions of dollars through chain investments, without putting in a single toman of their own money. [7-minute video, in Persian]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tim Berners-Lee, father of Worldwide Web, is quite disappointed in what his brainchild has become at 30.
- Nike falls for Islamic-Republic propaganda and is condemned for depicting Maryam Mirzakhani with a hijab.
- Universities starting to take grad-student mental health challenges due to work pressures seriously.
- Cartoon of the day: "It's a great school, but it wasn't my first choice." [Image]
- Comical, though quite impressive, performance of classical music and other familiar tunes.
- Torn between two Persian sayings: Is silence "a sign of consent" or "the best response to fools"?
- Persian music: The beautiful "Norooz Waltz," superbly performed. [4-minute video]
- Persian music: Instrumental, big-orchestra performance of "Hamzaboonam Baash" ("Be My Companion").
(6) This is the extent of the knowledge of our President on science and technology: MIT scientists have made fun of his assertions, but, unfortunately, the tweets resonate with his base, because they are deeply suspicious of science and hi-tech. So, it seems, MAGA means going back to planes of the kinds the Wright Brothers flew! Or maybe ditch planes altogether and use horse-drawn carriages! In fact, the problem isn't in hi-tech but in greedy/amoral executives and engineering managers who opted for a lower-cost software work-around to a serious hardware problem. Ironically, this statement comes from a man who flies on the world's most advanced plane and helicopters in terms of control and communication technologies.

2019/03/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Pi Day! Beautiful handwriting Chart: Things that happen on the Internet every minute in 2019 (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Happy Pi Day! [Center] Beautiful handwriting. [Right] Things that happen on the Internet every minute in 2019.
(2) March 14 (3/14) is the International Pi Day: Google employee Emma Haruka Iwao has calculated a record-breaking 31.4 trillion decimal digits of pi. In case you are wondering how such high-precision versions of pi are obtained, there are essentially three methods.
- Use of the power series expansion of atan(x) = xx^3/3 + x^5/5 – ... together with formulas like pi = 16*atan(1/5) – 4*atan(1/239). This gives about 1.4 decimals per term.
- Use of formulas coming from Arithmetic-Geometric mean computations. They have the advantage of converging quadratically, i.e., you double the number of decimal digits per iteration. For instance, to obtain 1,000,000 decimals, around 20 iterations are sufficient. However, the required computations are complicated.
- Use of complex multiplication of elliptic curves, discovered by S. Ramanujan. Here is an example:
Set a = 545140134; b = 13591409; c = 640320; d = 100100025; e = 327843840; f = 53360;
Then, pi = f sqrt(c)/S, where S = sum_(n = 0 to infinity) (–1)^n ((6n)!(b + na))/(n!^3(3n)!(8de)^n)
This scheme converges linearly, but very fast (more than 14 decimal digits per term).
(3) [Book introduction] Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age: Classicist Donna Zuckerberg, the only Zuckerberg sibling not to have worked in tech, explores the appropriation of the classics by misogynistic communities on-line. The author goes on to connect on-line misogyny to classics worship, particularly the interpretation of the works of authors such as Marcus Aurelius and Ovid to defend the idea that "white men are the guardians of intellectual authority." [Image] [Source: E&T magazine, February 2019]
(4) Fighting misogyny: Iranian women continue to fight mandatory hijab and other misogynistic laws, despite the Supreme Leader's musings: "A woman with hijab is like a framed masterpiece. A woman without hijab is a badly drawn image on a piece of paper." Forcibly-framed women are rebelling! [Cartoon]
(5) A group of my contemporaries from Tehran University's College of Engineering are planning a tour of Iran's Kurdistan region, much like our last year's gathering in Yerevan, Armenia, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our graduation. The tour spans several cities, including Saqqez, the birthplace of my parents. I have always wanted to visit Kurdistan (Kermanshah and Saqqez, in particular), but never got a chance. Alas, I cannot join the group, but will be with them in spirit!
(6) Final thought for the day: Pointed open letter to a female Iranian official, congratulating her on being even more corrupt than her male counterparts, thus demonstrating on the occasion of International Women's Day that women can be equal to men!

2019/03/13 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My mom's haft-seen spread for Norooz 2019 My haft-seen spread at home for Norooz 2019, close-up photo My haft-seen spread at home for Norooz 2019, wide-shot photo (1) Gearing up for Norooz and spring: Yesterday, I did some shopping to complete my mom's haft-seen spread and helped her set it up for Norooz. And I set up my own haft-seen at home, a week before Norooz and the Iranian New Year 1398. Wishing you a happy Norooz, a joyous renewal season, and a wonderful New Year!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- With a dozen Republican defections, Trump's national emergency declaration is opposed by the US Senate. Veto is certain.
- Paul Manafort receives an additional 3.5 years in prison, and is immediately charged with additional crimes.
- Governor Newsom puts death penalty on hold in California, giving reprieves to 737 death-row inmates.
- Nasrin Sotoudeh will not be silenced by a cruelly-long and utterly unjust prison sentence. [Cartoon]
- Tehran billboard spreads the official message of the Islamic Republic to women: Stay home and multiply!
- Persian Music: An old performance by Parisa, for those who did not get to see her perform on Sunday.
(3) CS Summit at UCSB: After smelling my jasmines, which have bloomed just in time for Norooz, I walked to campus, where I had breakfast and began a full day of attendance at technical presentations (Photos). Immediately after the opening, 10 senior capstone projects were presented, in talks and posters. I was involved in assessing 2 of the senior capstone projects vis-a-vis compliance with ABET design requirements for computer engineering, and the CE students involved in them (each team also had CS students who do not appear in these photos). "NovaSight" provides solutions to problems created owing to data breaches and other security threats by helping users better manage their data and privacy parameters. Team members shown are Fernando Mendoza (left) and Blake Johnson. "Automatic/Intelligent Offer Categorizer" assists merchants with identifying special offers with greater likelihood of being of interest to a given customer. Team members shown are Haochen Shi, Xiao Sun, and Winfred Huang (left to right).
In the late afternoon, Distinguished Lecturer Lise Getoor (Professor, UCSC) spoke under the title "Responsible Data Science." Professor Getoor's talk consisted of three parts: A short introduction to data science, a description of her research contributions to the field, and cautions. Responsible data science addresses both the technical and societal aspects of emerging data-driven technologies, hence Professor Getoor's emphasis on the third part of her talk. Progress in this domain requires successful integration of algorithmic and statistical principles, social science theories, and basic humanist concepts. [Slides]
(4) World Music Series noon concert today: I spent part of my lunch break to attend a concert. The Music Bowl, where UCSB's San Jarocho Ensemble performed, was conveniently close to the CS Summit venue, UCen's Corwin Pavilion. A nice break from non-stop technical presentations! One of these photos shows a sample of the smallish guitars that are carved from a single block of wood. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]

2019/03/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Madrid's city-scape Istanbul's Blue Mosque Quebec City's Quartier Petit Champlain (1) Architectural marvels from around the world: [Left] Madrid's city-scape. [Center] Istanbul's Blue Mosque. [Rignt] Quebec City's Quartier Petit Champlain.
(2) Math puzzle: Starting now, Bill can get to class at 3 PM if he rides his bike at 10 km/hr and at 1 PM if he rides at 15 km/hr. However, his class begins at 2 PM. He should ride at 12.5 km/hr, right?
(3) Deadly software failure: The two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes that crashed over the past 5 months had hardware problems that caused the plane to stall. Rather than modify the hardware, Boeing decided to install a software fix to go around the stalling problem, but failed to notify the pilots or train them to understand the fix. Several countries have grounded the planes but the US continues to insist that they are safe. [Images]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- GDP forecasts are usually too optimistic: The only exception over the past decade was 2018. [NYT chart]
- The many faces of Julia Louis Dryfus: Time magazine feature honoring her as "The Queen of Comedy."
- A mesmerizing, graceful, and athletic dance, using a ring. [5-minute video]
- Instrumental music: "Paola" theme from the movie "State of Siege" (1972), by Mikis Theodorakis.
(5) I am a proud Californian: As this sign, recently installed at the top of the stairs leading to UCSB's West Campus Beach, declares, California leads the way in ocean and coastline restoration and preservation. In my post of yesterday about the Plous Award Lecture, I wrote that the future of humanity depends on the health of our oceans and the lifeforms therein. We should do our best to avoid a repetition of the species extinction trend experienced on land within our oceans.
(6) Visiting the beach during my walk today: This 2-minute video captures the ocean's magnificence during high tide on a super-windy afternoon, which made the Sun's warm rays doubly enjoyable.
(7) College admission scandal: Actresses Felicity Hoffman and Lori Loughlin, along with a number of CEOs and other rich people, have been charged with illegal acts to get their children into elite colleges. The schemes included having stand-ins take tests, faking learning disabilities to get extra time on tests, and bribing athletic departments to recruit their kids for sports they never played.

2019/03/11 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The beautiful city of Lahijan on Iran's Caspian coast Herb-rice and fish is a staple of Norooz family gatherings among Iranians, at home and in diaspora The 3000-year-old village of Uraman Takht (Throne of Ahura Mazda) in eastern Kurdistan, Iran (1) Iran-related images: [Left] The beautiful city of Lahijan on Iran's Caspian coast. [Center] Herb-rice and fish is a staple of Norooz family gatherings among Iranians, at home and in diaspora. [Right] The 3000-year-old village of Uraman Takht (Throne of Ahura Mazda) in eastern Kurdistan, Iran.
(2) Here comes the hidden half of the GOP tax cuts: Significant cuts in Trump's proposed budget to reduce the deficit. Apparently, wealth redistribution is good when money goes from the 99% to the 1%! The budget includes deep cuts to science spending.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Disgusting case of data abuse: Florida cop tried to date 150 women, using the police database.
- Meme of the day: The very crooked balance of the US justice system. [Image]
- NYC will soon have a glass-bottom outdoors observation deck at a height of 1100 feet (100th floor).
- Tucker Carlson exposed as sexualizing underage girls and describing women as "extremely primitive."
- Dutch researcher discovers a personal-info database of women in China, listing their "Breed-Ready" status.
- Human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh receives a final verdict of 38 years in jail and 148 lashes.
(4) The 62nd Annual Harold J. Plous Award Lecture: Douglas McCauley, Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at UCSB, gave the prestigious annual lecture which honors a young researcher in humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences. Speaking under the title "The Past and Future of Wildlife Loss in Our Oceans," Dr. McCauley's theme was whether mass extinction on land and its acceleration after the Industrial Revolution will repeat in our oceans. So far, the oceans have fared better than land with regard to the extinction of animal species, but that may change rapidly, as we endeavor to farm, mine, and, more generally, industrialize our oceans.
Technology is changing our oceans, but the same technology, which brings us industrial-scale fishing, enormous container ships, and many other disruptive elements, provides us with tools to observe, measure, and develop theories of change and strategies for managing the change. Given how important the oceans are to the well-being of the human race, we must act to keep the marine-extinction trend line flat, as opposed to exponentially rising, as observed for land species following the Industrial Revolution. One strategy is to set aside areas as "ocean parks," as we have done on land in the form of National Parks, but there are many other options for international cooperation to avert disaster. [Slides]
P.S.: The beautiful Marine Science Building at UCSB and views from its second-floor terrace, where the reception following the Plous Award Lecture was held. [4 photos]

2019/03/10 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Costume parade in front of Royce Hall at UCLA's 2019 Norooz celebration Haft-seen spread at UCLA's 2019 Norooz celebration Performers posing with women in costumes at UCLA's 2019 Norooz celebration (1) Norooz celebration: The 11th annual celebration of Norooz by Farhang Foundation was held at UCLA's Dickson Court this afternoon. The program consisted of music, by UCLA Bruins Marching Band, LA Daf Ensemble, and Saaz o Dohol Musicians, and dance routines, by Djanbazian Dance Company and Firuze Dance Company, a costume parade, various activities for children/youth, and an evening concert by the renowned singer of classical Persian songs, Parisa, at Royce Hall (I did not attend the concert). Dickson Court held a haft-seen spread and various Norooz-related decorations. [Photos] [4 videos of the costume parade and music/dance performances] [4 videos from the event, where the UCLA Bruins Marching Band was involved]
(2) Shabbat elevators: Writing in the February 2019 issue of E&T magazine, columnist Vitali Vitaliev describes a visit to friends in Israel who live in a high-rise building, with an elevator devoted for use on Saturdays, when observant Jews shun pressing buttons. The elevator door opens automatically upon someone approaching, it closes after a few seconds, and the car stops on every floor! That's 21st-century religion for you!
(3) How long it takes to download an HD movie in various cell-phone technology generations:
1G, 1 month; 2G, 17 hours; 3G, 1 hour; 4G, 2 minutes; 5G, 4 seconds.
(4) Math puzzle: What is the missing number in the following sequence?
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 22, 24, __, 100, 121, 10000
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Street art in Tehran: Paintings on a wall along Jomhouri Street. [Tweet image]
- A star is born: Dog sings when his master plays the guitar! [Video]
- Jasmines on a trellis: These aren't my jasmines, which have just begun to bloom. [Photo]
- Titans of tech: Tim Apple, Jeff Amazon, Mark Facebook, Elon Tesla (or is it Elon SpaceX? Elon Boring?).
(6) The first nuclear war ever may well be between India and Pakistan, as border tensions between the two nuclear powers rise over Kashmir and the United States' moderating influence in the region dwindles.
(7) An old friend visiting Santa Barbara: Ali Parsa, who was a grad student at Sharif University of Technology just before I left, edited Computer Report (technical magazine of Informatics Society of Iran, for which I was founding editor) for a few years, and, unknown to both of us, led a parallel life within a few hundreds of feet from my family's residence in Tehran's Vanak neighborhood, visited Santa Barbara on Saturday, along with the Sharifpour family. We had lunch at Fishouse waterfront restaurant. For a couple of hours, we reminisced about our lives in Vanak and our experiences since we last met four decades ago. [Photos]

Cover image for Professor Anne Curzan's course, 'The Secret Life of Words' 2019/03/09 (Saturday): Course review: Curzan, Professor Anne, "The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins," 36 lectures in "The Great Courses" series, 2012. [My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads]
This grand tour of the history of words in the English language is both enjoyable and highly informative. Professor Curzan combines her vast knowledge of English with a story-telling style that holds the listener's attention. The 18 CDs come in three boxes, with a 269-page guide book, which includes a 12-page bibliography.
This link takes you to the publisher's Web page for the course, where hovering over a lecture title gives you a synopsis of that lecture.
A listing of the wonderfully playful lecture titles is perhaps the best way to convey the vast scope and impressive organization of the course.
01 Winning Words, Banished Words    02 The Life of a Word, from Birth to Death
03 The Human Hands Behind Dictionaries    04 Treasure Houses, Theft, and Traps
05 Yarn and Clues—New Word Meanings    06 Smog, Mob, Bling—New Words
07 "Often" versus "Offen"—Pronunciation    08 Fighting over Zippers
09 Opening the Early English Word-Hoard    10 Safe and Sound—The French Invasion
11 Magnifical Dexterity—Latin and Learning    12 Chutzpah to Pajamas—World Borrowings
13 The Pop/Soda/Coke Divide    14 Maths, Wombats, and Les Bluejeans
15 Foot and Pedestrian—Word Cousins    16 Desultory Somersaults—Latin Roots
17 Analogous Prologues—Greek Roots    18 The Tough Stuff of English Spelling
19 The b in Debt—Meddling in Spelling    20 Of Mice, Men, and Y'All
21 I'm Good ... Or Am I Well?    22 How Snuck Sneaked In
23 Um, Well, Like, You Know    24 Wicked Cool—The Irreverence of Slang
25 Boy Toys and Bad Eggs—Slangy Wordplay    26 Spinster, Bachelor, Guy, Due
27 Firefighters and Freshpersons    28 A Slam Dunk—The Language of Sports
29 Fooling Around—The Language of Love    30 Gung Ho—The Language of War
31 Filibustering—The Language of Politics    32 LOL—The Language of the Internet
33 #$@%!—Forbidden Words    34 Couldn't (or Could) Care Less
35 Musquirt and Other Lexical Gaps    36 Playing Fast and Loose with Words
Perhaps the most important insight one gains from this course is that language is a living system that expands, shrinks, and changes as words are born and die and as old words assume new roles. New words are born all the time through various processes, including the introduction of names for new scientific/technological notions, borrowing, slang usage, combining, contraction, and so on.
One should not look down on such new words, even slang ones, as somehow being illegitimate or in violation of "pure language." English, which is predominantly made up of words borrowed from other languages anyway, is what its speakers decide it to be; it cannot or should not be protected against change by academics. Dictionary-makers are sometimes viewed as language arbiters, whereas their role is simply to monitor and explain usage and to track how things change over time.
Here is a snippet of the history of "woman" as a word, which I used on social-media posts on the 2019 International Women's Day (March 8). The word "mann" used to mean "person" in old English. It was later used to form the new word "wifmann" (meaning "female person"). The word "wif," whose counterpart "wer" for "male" somehow disappeared, later also gave rise to "wife."
I highly recommend this course. I will go back and listen to it a second time, before the library loan period expires. Listening once isn't enough to capture the wealth of information dispensed by Curzan.

2019/03/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Women's Day greeting, with abstract flowers Behrooz Parhami's Persian poem honoring Women's Day 2019 and Norooz 1398 A few images from March 8 of years past (1) Happy International Women's Day to my women readers and all others who believe in unconditional gender equality. The English word "woman" has an interesting history, which I learned from Professor Anne Curzan's wonderful course (in "The Great Courses" series), entitled "The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins" (I have finished the course and will write a review of it soon). The word "mann" used to mean "person" in old English. It was later used as the basis for the new word "wifmann" (meaning "female person"). The word "wif," whose counterpart "wer" for "male" somehow disappeared, later also gave rise to "wife." The Persian poem is explained under item (2) below. On the right is a collage of images from March 8 of years past.
(2) Persian poetry: Each year, just before Norooz, I compose a Persian poem that celebrates the arrival of spring and its bounties, challenging myself by having the initial letters of the poem's verses spell a cheerful or congratulatory message. For spring 2019 (Norooz 1398 in Persian calendar), I decided to take on an even greater challenge, composing my poem to celebrate Norooz in the first half-verses and women in the second halves, with the initials of the former spelling "Norooz" and the initials of the latter spelling "Women's Day" (in Persian). I am publishing the poem on International Women's Day, March 8, as my gift/message for this important occasion. I will repost the poem in a week or two in celebration of Norooz.
I love puzzles and such compositions are puzzle-like. Starting with the desired initial letters that spell my hidden message, and notions that I would like to include in the poem (spring, flowers, joy, renewal, growth, ... for Norooz, and equality, respect, rights, justice, ... for Women's Day), I go to work trying to put my sentiments into words, while observing the rhyming schemes that have made classical Persian poetry a joy to read/recite. This year, progress was slow in the first couple of days, but I eventually pulled everything together and finished the job. I hope you enjoy my poem! [Facebook post and tweet, both with Persian introductions]
[2-minute video of me reciting the poem on Facebook and on Twitter]
(3) Five crimes committed by women in Iran: Sharing their dance videos on social media, playing with water in the park, watching men play soccer, walking their dogs, and showing their hair in public. [Video]
(4) Violin recital: What better way to end this special day of honoring women than by listening to the exquisite violin music of Anne-Sophie Mutter (Santa Barbara Granada Theater, 7:00 PM). Both halves of the program began with Mozart's Violin Sonatas (K. 304, K. 454). The first half continued with Debussy's Violin Sonata and Ravel's Violin Sonata No. 2. The second half proceeded with Poulenc's Violin Sonata and was followed by a couple of shorter encore pieces. Pianist Lambert Orkis accompanied Mutter. Here are samples of the violin virtuoso's work from YouTube. [39-minute video] [141-minute video, Mozart] [Event flyer]

2019/03/07 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This 4.5-decades-old photo shows me when I was a doctoral student at UCLA in the early 1970s Sharing a 20-year-old photo of my ex-wife Vida on this fifth anniversary of her passing Undated photo (1960s?), showing one of the metal folding beds my dad manufactured at his mini-factory/workshop in Vanak, Tehran (1) Throwback Thursday: [Left] This 4.5-decades-old photo is courtesy of Sharon Boyajian, who, along with her late husband Don, served as my host family while I was a doctoral student at UCLA. [Center] Sharing a 20-year-old photo of my ex-wife Vida on this fifth anniversary of her passing. RIP. [Right] Undated photo (1960s?), showing one of the metal folding beds my dad manufactured at his mini-factory/workshop in Vanak, Tehran. The frame was made out of iron tubes, bent to the desired shape, using a manual tube-bending implement. The diamond-mesh forming the bed's surface was assembled by hand, using short pieces of metal wire, with hook-like bends at both ends, connected together by putting four hooks through a washer.
(2) Relief from rain: We will be drying out in Santa Barbara and Goleta over the next week. Our rainfall total now stands at 114% of the average for a full water year and at 145% of normal-to-date. [Weather forecast]
(3) The organizer and sponsor of a fashion show in Lavasan, east of Tehran, have been summoned by the police for exhibiting "immoral" clothing without a permit.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has done Muslim-Americans a great disservice by speaking carelessly.
- China will launch the first module of its space station later this year, in an ambitious 3-year project.
- Execution of ethnic minorities rises in Iran, most cases occurring in border regions and in secret.
- Iranian teachers launch nationwide sit-in. [Iranwire story]
- No kabob for you: Soaring meat prices force many Tehran restaurants to close.
- A Kurdish Norooz song and dance.
- Alex Trebek, the most recognizable face of TV game shows, is diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer.
- Meme of the day: For fans of the game show "Wheel of Fortune." [Image]
(5) Technical talk sponsored by UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency: Adam R. Brendt (Professor, Stanford U.) spoke this afternoon under the title "Oil Production in a Climate-Constrained World: Reducing Impacts, Improving Efficiency." Some argue that the time for oil has passed and see no need to study it further. But oil currently provides about 35% of total primary energy supply and meets about 95% of our transportation energy needs. Models predict consumption of more than 1 trillion barrels of oil by the end of the century. Where will this oil come from? What are the impacts of producing, refining, and consuming it? Professor Brendt has spent more than a decade poring over data from the oil industry, which is itself energy-intensive, consuming 3-4% of the total human primary energy (divided nearly equally between production and refining). Understanding the impacts of oil production, as well as exploring the benefits of wise choices in resource prioritization, emissions management, and integration of renewables into oil sector operations are thus important. [Slides]

2019/03/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Spectacular lightning display, photographed over Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara last night, Photo 1 Spectacular lightning display, photographed over Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara last night, Photo 3 Spectacular lightning display, photographed over Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara last night, Photo 2 (1) Spectacular lightning display, photographed over Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara last night: Southern California saw more than 2000 pulses of lightning. In Goleta, we had an unusually intense and long thunderstorm in Goleta, CA, seen in this video, captured from behind a French door at my home.
(2) A number of new technologies on the hype cycle, beginning with inflated expectations, continuing with disillusionment, and ending with productive use. [Chart from: E&T magazine, issue of February 2019]
(3) Architecture heals nature: Following the collapse of Malta's famed natural arch in 2017, a team of architects plans to pay homage by replacing it with a landmark that preserves the arch's original size and proportions, while providing 5000 square meters of exhibition space over five spiral floors. [Images] [Source: E&T magazine, issue of February 2019]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The on-line world map, in which countries are scaled by the number of their registered Internet domains.
- Cartoon of the day: Trump hugs and fondles a US flag before starting his 2-hour CPAC speech. [Image]
- After Sadeq Larijani steps down as head of Iran's judiciary, another criminal (Ebrahim Raisi) is appointed.
- Why 'ji32k7au4a83' is a surprisingly common password, appearing in data breache cases 141 times.
- Live-action re-enactment of classic paintings. [4-minute video]
- The 74 km sightseeing railroad of Iran's Luristan Province. [3-minute video, narrated in Persian]
- The difference between doing nothing and doing a tiny bit each day for a year, expressed mathematically.
- Persian poetry: Mr. Haloo recites his humorous poem about the penniless man who kept thanking God.
- According to a Delta Dental survey, the average amount that the Tooth Fairy leaves kids per tooth is $3.70.
(5) World Music Series noon concert: A subset of UCSB's Gospel Choir performed in a nearby classroom instead of the fairly wet Music Bowl. [3-minute video]
(6) Contempt, not incivility or intolerance, tops the list of problems in America today: Our country is more divided now than any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election.
(7) Math puzzle: Two trains, each moving at 50 km/hr, were approaching each other on the same track. When the trains were 100 km apart, a bee on the front of one train started flying toward the other train at 60 km/hr. When the bee reached the front of the second train, it immediately started back toward the first train, and continued to go back and forth, until the trains collided. How far did the bee fly?

2019/03/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An enlightening representation of the Great Lakes in northern United States and their relationships (1) An enlightening representation of the Great Lakes in the northern US and their relationships: Water level drops quite gradually (suddenly, at Niagara Falls) from 601 feet above sea level to sea level over ~1500 miles.
(2) Computing's environmental impact: We tend to think that computers help make everything more efficient, so they should have a net positive impact on the environment. Not so fast, say Andrew Chien in his CACM Editor's Letter (March 2019 issue). He elaborates that according to a rule known as "Jevons Paradox" (formulated by economist William Stanley Jevons), efficiency tends to increase consumption, so it may end up having a net negative impact. Chien concludes his letter thus: "Let's create technologies and systems that in their manufacture, construction, and operation approach the goal of 100% carbon-free and neutral environmental impact!" [Image]
(3) Lost in beautiful math: The title above is a combination of two attitudes toward mathematics. Some find it beautiful, while others are lost in it! Moshe Vardi's insightful column in CACM's March 2019 issue elaborates on this dichotomy. While seeking mathematical beauty has been the source of many discoveries in math and elsewhere, the lure of beauty can lead us astray. As noted by Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman in response to the question of how economists got it so wrong in the 2008 financial crisis, "the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth." [Image]
(4) Final thought for the day: Government does not give free stuff to anyone. People give free stuff to government in the form of paying for government salaries, benefits, and perks. In return, government provides services, using what is left of the tax money it collects. The Right calls this "socialism" when the services benefit ordinary citizens and "free enterprise" when corporations, the military-industrial complex, and the super-rich are subsidized. [Chart: US individual and corporate taxes as percent of GDP]

2019/03/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A beautiful spring-like day on the UCSB campus, Photo 1 A beautiful spring-like day on the UCSB campus, Photo 2 A beautiful spring-like day on the UCSB campus, Photo 3 (1) A beautiful spring-like day on the UCSB campus, sandwiched between 3 days of rain on each side.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At least 23 died, as a tornado ripped through Lee County in Alabama: The death toll is expected to rise.
- Fox News reportedly had Stormy Daniels' story before the 2016 election, but Rupert Murdoch killed it.
- Steven Colbert on Trump's record-breaking 122-minute CPAC speech, which began with flag-hugging.
- Saudi Arabia mimics Iran in detaining, and allegedly torturing, a dual Saudi-US citizen.
- A beautiful face: A victims of acid-spraying in Isfahan, Iran, in front of her portrait at an exhibition.
- Trump's buddy, Kim Jong Un, had a cyberattack launched against the US during the love-fest in Hanoi.
- A first for commercial space technology: SpaceX's Crew Dragon travels to the International Space Station.
- China's space ambitions include launching a rover to probe Mars in 2020.
A Haji Firooz figurine, with blackened face and large, colored lips (3) Norooz traditions' blackface problem: One fixture in Norooz celebrations is blackface entertainers, dressed in red, dancing and singing on the streets. I have written many times about the need to repeal this racist tradition. A number of friends and acquaintances take issue with my allegation of racism, offering various alternative explanations. One recurring explanation is that Haji Firooz (aka Khajeh Pirooz) dancers on the streets do not represent black people but soot-covered fire-keepers in Zoroastrian fire temples. I have always found this explanation unsatisfactory. First, blackface dancers recite lines that refer to the listener as master ("arbaab"). Second, the fire-keeper interpretation does not explain the large, painted lips on many of these entertainers. We can have fun during Norooz, without denigrating other people. Let's ditch the Haji Firooz tradition!
(4) Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh faces a 34-year prison term: Each of these ridiculously-long sentences is another nail Iranian judiciary puts in the Islamic regime's coffin. Nasrin Sotoudeh's name is already recorded at the top of the list of the brave and selfless Iranians, who contributed peacefully and nonviolently, to the downfall of an unaccountable and brutal regime, by just speaking the truth. Hats off to her and to Iranian women's movement!
(5) Philosophical maxims, updated for freelancers: "I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think that I'm doing this Skype call with the bottom half of this business-casual outfit on."

2019/03/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Damavand village, near Tehran, Iran Two of my favorite snacks, photographed in Tajrish, Tehran The magnificent Mount Judi in the Kurdish region of Turkey (1) Natural wonders: [Left] Damavand village, near Tehran, Iran. [Center] Two of my favorite snacks (fresh almonds and green plums, which signal the arrival of spring), photographed in Tajrish square, northern Tehran. [Right] The magnificent Mount Judi in the Kurdish region of Turkey.
(2) Communication of the ACM's March 2019 interview with Fei-Fei Li, Co-Director of Stanford University's Human-Centered AI Institute, who wants to create algorithms that can learn the way human babies do.
(3) The cost of knowledge: Negotiations between University of California and Elsevier publishing company fail over high cost, leading to cut-off of free access to many scientific journals for our students and faculty. UC aimed to negotiate a complete package that included both access to journals and pre-payment of open-access publishing fees. Alternative access methods, through inter-library loans and other mechanisms, are being explored by the administration. Here is a report by The Atlantic on the failed UC-Elsevier negotiations.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A wonderful verse from Sa'adi, which has four variations in different sources.
- Super-fresh herbs and Persian cucumbers I brought back from Los Angeles. [Photo]
- I have fond memories of this sandwich shop in northern Tehran: Sharing, in case others remember it too.
- GPS device found on a dead eagle shows its movements over a 20-year period.
- Egyptian tourist at Parhami Traditional House (no relation) in Shiraz, during her second visit to Iran.
- Work has begun in converting the closed K-mart in Goleta, CA, to a Target store, the first in our area.
(5) Today, I drove to the Chatsworth area of San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles to visit a dear old college classmate and friend who is in poor health. He has been living in that area with his family, ever since he suffered a stroke in 2015, but I was unaware of his whereabouts until fairly recently. I talked with him about our good-old days in Tehran and our subsequent e-mail communications, which lasted until a few years ago, when I lost contact with him. He was visibly cheered up when I showed him the photos of our college days, our group's 50th graduation anniversary reunion in Yerevan, Armenia (which he could not attend), last year, and the recent celebration of Fanni's Alumni Association in Tehran. [Photos]

2019/03/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Physicist Michio Kaku's books, batch 2 Physicist Michio Kaku's books, batch 1 (1) Physicist Michio Kaku's books: His next book is The Future of Humanity: Our Destiny in the Universe.
(2) Quote of the day: "When scientists use the word God, they usually mean the God of Order ... However, to the nonscientists, the word God almost universally refers to the God of Miracles, and this is the source of miscommunication between scientists and nonscientists." ~ American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku
(3) A capsule review of linear algebra: If you are looking for an introduction to linear algebra or need to quickly review the main topics in an easily presented, intuitive format, this set of 14 videos, running 4-17 minutes each, is recommended.
(4) Donald J. Trump: The great businessman who hides his tax returns. The genius who ordered his grades sealed. The innocent man who won't answer questions under oath.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- An 11-year-old girl, impregnated by her step-grandfather, is denied abortion in Argentina.
- Trump mocks his former AG's Southern accent during his CPAC speech: And Southerners still support him?
- Are our national and state-level politics moving us towards Third-World status in civil discourse?
- Iran's government is subsidizing each Hajj pilgrim ~$2000 in the form of discounted exchange rate. [Tweet]
- Santa Barbara County rainfall stands at 139% of year-to-date and 103% of the total water-year amount.
- A giant sunfish, with home in the Australian waters, washed up on Coal Oil Point beach in Goleta, CA.
- Senate probes China-funded Confucius Institute at US colleges, given that US has no reciprocal rights.
- Michael Jackson is back in the news, owing to a 4-hour HBO documentary about his private life.
(6) Fatemeh Kamarkhani, the Iranian woman who exposed the marriage of an 11-year-old girl to a 50-year-old man, has been laid off from her government job. [Tweet]
(7) The first woman to ever run a marathon in the US disguised her sex by entering her initials on the sign-up sheet. When she was discovered, a man tried to force her out of the race, but she persisted.
(8) "Beatles Revolutions" film series at UCSB's Pollock Theater: The fifth and final installment of the series, "Yellow Submarine" (1968) was screened this afternoon. This animated film, with a minimalist plot, happens in the psychedelic paradise of Pepperland and features 11 Beatles tunes, mostly from the "Sergeant Pepper" album. Concurrent with the film's 50th anniversary year, a graphic-novel adaptation was published. Writer Bill Morrison and colorist Nathan Kane participated in a moderated discussion after the screening. [Images]

2019/02/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This will send a clear message to ruthless dictators the world over. Don't make us come to your doorstep and bombard you with compliments! They are not invaders--they're here to install the storm screens This cartoon (Joey's Authentic Italian Pizza) needs no explanation! (1) Cartoons galore (the first two from New Yorker): [Left] "This will send a clear message to ruthless dictators the world over. Don't make us come to your doorstep and bombard you with compliments!" [Center] "They are not invaders—they're here to install the storm screens." [Right] This cartoon needs no caption!
(2) Facebook post of the day, for my Persian-speaking readers: It is a pet peeve of mine too that when a singer or other artist appears on a Persian TV show, the host often compliments and thanks the guest profusely, as if his/her appearance on the show is a great favor to the audience or a major personal sacrifice.
(3) Data transmission speed (bandwidth) record, beyond what was thought theoretically possible, is set on a 4000-mile transatlantic cable jointly owned by Facebook and Microsoft.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Northern California, devastated by fires a few months ago, now faces the worst flooding in decades.
- High prices will prevent foldable smartphones from going mainstream in 2019.
- Cartoon of the day: Pope's nonexistent plan of action on clergy sex abuse. [Image]
- Today's cartoon caption: "The President wants to know if North Korea's missiles can reach Michael Cohen."
- Iranian labor activists face intense pressure for confessing on TV to trumped-up crimes.
- Iranian dance: Costumes and some moves look Kurdish but the music is from the Persian Gulf region.
- Persian music: The pains and struggles of those who carry impossibly heavy loads on their backs.
(5) ECE Distinguished Lecture, today at UCSB: Dr. John Paul Strachan (Head of the Rebooting Computing Team at HP Labs, Palo Alto, CA) spoke under the title "A New Era for Exploring Power Efficient Hardware Accelerators: Devices, Architectures, and Lab Demonstrations." This fascinating talk's thesis was that significant performance gains in future will depend on exploiting circuits and devices beyond CMOS, as well as on hardware-software co-design of special-purpose (application-specific) systems. Examples pursued at HP Labs include new circuits and architectures for accelerating finite automata, used in rapid pattern-matching applications, and leveraging the analog and non-volatile nature of memristor arrays to accelerate machine learning and image processing. Dr. Strachen also described how noise can be harnessed in analog circuits to build a "classical annealer" for solving optimization problems at lower latency and energy than any digital system or even the quantum annealers currently being pursued. [14 slides]

2019/02/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
History in pictures: Nancy Pelosi, 20, with JFK at the 1962 Democratic Convention Cover image of Bernie Sanders' latest book 'Where We Go from Here' Senator Chuck Schumer's snior-year high school yearbook photo, 1967 (1) Images of US Democratic politicians, then and now: [Left] Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 20, with JFK at the 1962 Democratic Convention. [Center] Cover image of Bernie Sanders' latest book (2018), reviewed below. [Right] Senator Chuck Schumer's snior-year high school yearbook photo, 1967.
(2) Liquid electrical tape: Let me share some information about a product that I bought recently. Over time, I had accumulated several iPhone/iPad charging cords, repaired with electrical tape at the device end. Yesterday, I repaired three of them by applying liquid electrical tape over the cord's end. Once the liquid tape dries, the cord becomes as good as new. It won't look as good as the original, but certainly better than one repaired with ordinary electrical tape. [Photo]
(3) Trump supporters have sunk to the lowest low, one Congressman threatening Michael Cohen with revealing info about his girlfriends if he is hostile to Trump.
(4) "Beatles Revolutions" film series at UCSB's Pollock Theater: Tonight's film, "Across the Universe" (2007), the fourth in a series of five and the most-recently made, defies classification. It is a musical featuring 33 Beatles songs, many of them re-imagined and performed by mostly-unknown artists, the only exception being Bono, who has a brief role. The Beatles themselves are never mentioned or shown in the film. The visuals are from the lives of young people in the 1960s, including street and campus protests against the Vietnam War. There are several dance routines, wonderfully choreographed, some in the style of Michael Jackson videos. All in all a wonderful visual and aural experience that shows the continued preeminence and relevance of Beatles music. A moderated discussion with music and cultural critic Greil Marcus followed the screening. [Images]
(5) Book review: Sanders, Bernie, Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Mcmillan Audio, 2018. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Bernie Sanders rose to his current Senate seat, working his way up from the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He defines himself as a Democratic Socialist and labels the grassroots movement he started "Our Revolution." I like and support many of Sanders' ideas: Universal healthcare, tuition-free college for all, raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, paid parental leave, dealing with climate change, and supporting labor unions. He discusses these ideas in detail, presenting them in a form resembling diary entries, each beginning with a date and perhaps a venue. He draws liberally from his previous writings and speeches.
As I write this review, Sanders has declared his intention to run for US presidency in 2020. I picked up this book to learn more about his ideas, considering that he is a serious contender for the Democratic Party's presidential candidacy. And this is what worries me.
In addition to advanced age, which makes him somewhat inflexible and learning-challenged (such as continuing to mispronounce certain country names), Sanders has limited appeal to moderate Americans. He fires up his supporters, much like Trump does his base, with rosy projections, without saying much about their practical implementation. The only concrete proposal one hears from Sanders is raising taxes on the rich. I don't object to this method, but I am not sure it will generate enough revenue to fund all the programs he advocates.
Sociopolitical changes occur in small, incremental steps, except in disruptive revolutions. It would be much wiser for him to focus on his most important proposals, such as universal healthcare and raising of the minimum wage, and turn them into a couple of compelling and easily digestible slogans/policies. Throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, into the mix dilutes the message and feeds the narrative that he is an out-of-touch idealist. This is how politics works in the US: Covering too many topics is counterproductive and raises the danger of losing the voters' attention. Furthermore, I wish he would stop talking about "socialism" and "revolution," as these words aren't popular these days, and they make some Americans uncomfortable.
Sanders is very skillful with data and is always able to cite pertinent facts and figures about the US economy. He is less versed in foreign policy and international affairs, including the global economy. Like Trump, Sanders adeptly hones in on grievances of the working class, and, alas, like Trump, he essentially says that everything would be wonderful if his policies were implemented.
Having listened to Where We Go from Here, I know more about Sanders' stance on various issues, but still not enough about how he plans to win the presidency by bringing in moderate Democrats and center-left independents. I am sorry to say that I do not see the appeal to a broad base that would help him overcome the predictable insults and attacks from Trump, who seems to prefer Sanders to other Democratic candidates, perhaps thinking that Sanders would be easier to bloody in a man-to-man fight.

2019/02/26 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: When my child hits another child with a stick, I don't blame the stick, but I still take the stick away Graduating college student with a sense of humor: Game of Loans is coming! Three fortune from cookies to choose from (1) Two memes and three fortunes: [Left] Meme suggesting that the slogan "Guns don't kill, people do" is misguided. [Center] Graduating college student with a wonderful sense of humor! [Right] My son and I had lunch together on Sunday and, since he didn't want his fortune cookie, I took both, to double my chances of getting a good reading. One cookie had two fortunes in it, so I ended up having three choices!
(2) Technological evil: Kalashnikov, the company that gave us the notorious AK-47, the killing machine used by soldiers in combat and by deranged mass-shooters on our streets, has introduced a kamikaze-style "suicide drone," an exploding flying machine that will bring low-cost mass-murder to the masses. As if the job of law enforcement wasn't hard enough already!
(3) Race matters: Kian Karamdashti writes in Daily Nexus, UCSB's student newspaper, about his experiences growing up mixed. Having an Iranian father and a Mexican mother, he was doubly stereotyped.
(4) The future of economy-class flights: A British company has designed a plane seat made of a smart fabric that allows passengers to control seat temperature, tension, pressure, and movement, all via a phone app.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's prediction that he'll have a "very tremendous summit" with Kim Jong Un reminded me of this chart.
- Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku in a 3-hour mind-expanding C-SPAN interview about everything.
- Tweet of the day [image]: For my Persian-speaking readers. [By the prolific tweeter Aida Ahadiany]
- Plous Award Lecture at UCSB: Douglas McCauley on "The Past and Future of Wildlife Loss in Our Oceans."
(6) Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train 11, traveling with 183 on board from Seattle to Los Angeles, has been stranded near Oakridge, Oregon, since Sunday evening, when it hit a fallen tree on the snow-covered tracks.
(7) Revealed for the first time: A 2014 FBI visit to the museum-like home of a beloved 90-year-old engineer revealed a huge collection of illegally-obtained treasures and historical artifacts from around the world, including about 2000 human bones dug up from Native-American burial grounds.
(8) Another one of Seth Meyers' insightful "A Closer Look" comedy news segments, this one dealing with the 2020 Democratic primary and Trump's plans to cause chaos in the crowded field.
(9) This Trump tweet is even more idiotic than what we have become accustomed to over the last 2+ years.
- HOLD THE DATE: We already hold the July 4th date every year to salute America!
- Major fireworks display: Noooo! Fireworks on 4th of July? That's so innovative!
- Your favorite President: He had to add "me," to ensure no one thought of Obama!
Shame on Trump for turning an occasion that unites all Americans into a hate-speech-filled political rally!

2019/02/25 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Message of love in a photo of fallen blossoms Message of love in a calligraphically-rendered Mowlavi (Rumi) verse Happy Sepandarmazgan, on the alternate date of February 24, not February 18 (1) Expressions of love: [Left & Center] Messages of love in a photo and in a calligraphically-rendered Mowlavi (Rumi) verse. [Right] Sepandarmazgan and its alternate date: In this 18-minute sound clip, in Persian, Dr. Shokoufeh Taghi offers her scholarly opinion, based on historical sources, on why Sepandarmazgan (or Esfandarmazgan), the ancient Iranian festival honoring women and Earth, should not be viewed as the "Iranian Valentine's Day" and why its correct date is 5th of Esfand (February 24; see my blog post of February 14).
(2) Analogies sometimes fail miserably: Pope Francis put his foot in his mouth again when he said that sexual abuse of children reminded him of the ancient religious practice of child sacrifice in pagan rites. While the abhorrent practice of human sacrifice was at least done with noble, though obviously misguided, intentions, I do not believe that a priest penetrating or otherwise abusing a child entertains any noble thoughts at the time.
(3) NASA renames building for "Hidden Figures" mathematician: The Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, WV, honors the African-American woman who overcame bias and discrimination to rise in the ranks of NASA scientists during the 1950s and 1960s.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Company employing autistic visual-effects artists was involved in the Oscar-winning film "Black Panther."
- Would you sell 39 years of your life for $21M? That's what happened to a wrongfully-convicted man.
- Does this 2-page spread in NRA's magazine advocate violence against Nancy Pelosi and Gabby Giffords?
- Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has reportedly resigned for unknown reasons. [Aljazeera report]
- Evidence that global warming is caused by humans reaches five-sigma level, a gold standard in science.
- Kahuna Grill, fixture at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace, has closed, to be replaced by a burger joint.
(5) Just watched the 26-minute film "Period. End of Sentence." which won the Oscar for best documentary short subject last night. In certain countries, girls are forced to end their education due to the inconvenience of cleaning up and changing in school during menstruation and, in part, because of patriarchal attitudes toward this very natural bodily function. The film's title is its thesis: That periods should only end sentences, not girls' education. Even in our advanced, modern society here in the US, a few social-media discussants considered it unfortunate that a film about such an undignified and cringe-inducing topic has been deemed worthy of an Oscar. There is no shame in any bodily function and no cringing is required! For centuries, if not millennia, women have been put down because of physiological differences with men, so much so that girls and women feel awkward discussing the topic or asking for help/guidance. It's time to bring the biases to the forefront and shame those who think girls/women become "dirty" when they menstruate. While this is happening primarily in Third-World societies, there are quite a few examples of it here in the US. Kudos to Iranian-American film-maker Rayka Zehtabchi for wonderfully documenting these injustices and unhealthy attitudes. [Film's trailer]

2019/02/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cloud waves rolling over the hills in Iran's Guilan Province The beautiful Vank Cathedral in Isfahan is unique in combining Iranian and Armenian architectural elements A traditional roadside cafe in Masouleh, Iran (1) Iran-related images: [Left] Cloud waves in Iran's Guilan Province. Here's a time-lapse video of cloud waves rolling over the hills in the same region. [Center] The beautiful Vank Cathedral in Isfahan is unique in combining Iranian and Armenian architectural elements. [Right] A traditional roadside cafe in Masouleh, Iran.
(2) President Barack Obama on being a man: How men are pressured in our society to exaggerate the traits deemed to represent "manhood." If you've got it, you don't need to flaunt it.
(3) Sepideh Moradi, 24, a talented and high-achieving graduate student, was expelled from a master's-degree program at Iran's Teacher Training University and dealt a 2-year prison term for belonging to a dervish sect.
(4) Great advice: Don't drink-and-drive! Because there are people out there who text-and-drive, and they will hit you, and it will be your fault.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Compassionate treatment at the border isn't the same as open borders." ~ Stacy Abrams' SOTU response
- You will soon be able to bike across the US, from sea to shining sea, on a 4000-mile trail.
- Marie Kondo's Netflix show has sparked a junk-clearing surge; thrift stores are now setting donation limits.
- "I'm the help. I'm like, 'What do your kids need? What can I do for you?'" ~ Chef Sandra Lee
(6) Women started the tech industry, but lost ground to sexism, reports Washington Post: "Silicon Valley's sexism has been thrust into the public eye in recent months, but women were initially at the forefront of the industry, back when technologist jobs were considered menial. However, as the industry became profitable, male executives developed hiring criteria and workplace cultures that sidelined women," according to Longpath Lab's Emma Goldberg.
(7) Business and society: "We should rid ourselves of the belief that business innovation inherently means social progress." ~ Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International
(8) The 91st annual Academy Awards (2019): Here are the results in major categories. Amazingly, a Mexican film-maker has won for directing in five of the past 6 years. And here is the complete list.
- Motion picture (director): "Green Book" directed by Peter Farrelly (Alfonso Cuaron for "Roma")
- Foreign-language film: "Roma" from Mexico, directed by Alfonso Cuaron
- Original (adapted) screenplay: "Green Book," Nick Vallelonga et al ("BlacKkKlansman," Charlie Wachtel et al)
- Original song (score): "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born," Lady Gaga et al ("Black Panther," Ludwig Goransson)
- Actor in leading (supporting) role: Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Mahershala Ali, "Green Book")
- Actress in leading (supporting) role: Olivia Colman, "The Favourite" (Regina King, "If Beale Street Could Talk")
(9) Final thought for the day: ISIS brides, who regret their voluntary choices and want to return to the US, should wait in line behind all those who are fleeing ISIS atrocities.

2019/02/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Drought map of California Spring in Japan: Mt. Fuji Image of a typewriter and paper, with 'white-out' blobs (1) Images of the day: [Left] After 7 years, Santa Barbara, like most of California, is out of the drought: At most "moderate drought" (colored orange on the map) lingers in some parts of our state, according to the official United States Drought Monitor site. [Center] Spring in Japan: Mt. Fuji (Undated and unattributed photo). [Right] Do we write differently on a screen than on paper? Yes, we do, according to this New Yorker article. When we write directly onto a computer and publish our work on-line, "The mind becomes locked into an obsessive, manic back-and-forth. When immediate confirmation is not forthcoming, there is a sense of failure. Suddenly, the writer, very close to his public, is tempted to work hard and fast to please immediately, superficially, in order to have immediate gratification for himself in return. Curiously, the apparent freedom of e-mail and the Internet makes us more and more conformist as we talk to each other unceasingly."
(2) Musings of Islamic Republic officials over the years, from "Economics is for donkeys" to "Women attending universities is one of our misfortunes." [Image of quotations in Persian]
(3) What a disgrace! The Islamic Republic's propaganda machine does not even have the talent to compose a new song with their message, so they destroy the beloved "Ey Iran" anthem, the de-facto national anthem for the regime's opponents, by putting new words to it. [Video]
(4) With Trump calling the Mueller investigation a hoax, a witch hunt, and a Democratic ploy, it would be quite natural if Americans similarly dismissed the investigation's report if it exonerated Trump!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Guns/ammo confiscated from a domestic US terrorist planning to kill anti-Trump politicians and journalists.
- The Pope now says that victims [of sexual abuse] need to be believed. Really? What took him so long?
- Top 15 best global brands: From 2000 to 2012, Coca Cola was on top. Then Apple took its place. [Video]
- Angelinos see snow for the first time in decades! [LA Times story]
- Medical staff fired or placed on leave for administering lethal doses of fentanyl to dozens of patients.
- The trial of Iranian environmentalists by the Islamic regime. [Cartoon from Iranwire.com]
- "Navel," a poem by Robin Coste Lewis, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles & author of Voyage of the Sable Venus.
(6) Quote of the day: "We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(7) Extreme hypocrisy: Some 200 dervishes remain in prison in Iran, while Khamenei sheds crocodile tears over the treatment of Yellow-Vest protesters in France.
(8) National Engineers Week 2019 Celebration tonight [Photos]: I was part of a 6-member delegation that traveled to the awards/honors ceremony at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo as representatives of IEEE Central Coast Section. Those honored included scholarship winners, a distinguished engineer, an exceptional teacher, and engineers and projects of the year. Dinner was served before the awards. A keynote lecture by Dr. Earl Maize, a NASA engineer at JPL, concluded the program.
This year, Cal State Channel Islands has added a mechatronics engineering program to a previously established program on cyber-security. In both areas, projects by student teams and collaboration with industry are pursued vigorously. CSU-CI is a relatively new Cal State Campus, with an enrollment of about 7000 students in 26 majors. Almost 2/3 of the students are women.

2019/02/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's 'Pocahontas' slur should be countered with 'Pinocchio'! Evidence of rampant literary theft in Iran (Web-store screen shots) An accomplished woman athlete tells men who insulted her to come get their sandwiches at the South Pole! (1) Memes of the day: [Left] Cartoon retort: Trump's "Pocahontas" slur should be countered with "Pinocchio"! [Center] Literary theft is alive and well in Iran: A book of poetry published in 2009 is republished 7 years later under a different author's name. Many friends have experienced this kind of theft, and they have no legal recourse, particularly if they live outside Iran. [Right] An accomplished woman athlete tells men who insulted her to come get their sandwiches at the South Pole!
(2) Sea change in the House: Elaine Luria, 43, an incoming Navy veteran and nuclear engineer, seeks to promote evidence-based thinking on Capitol Hill. Representing Virginia's coastal Hampton Roads, home to world's largest naval base, Luria has already secured a seat on the Armed Services Committee and has pledged "to create solutions that serve all Americans." [Source: ASEE Prism magazine, issue of February 2019] [Photo]
(3) A White-Nationalist was arrested with a stockpile of weapons and ammunition he planned to use for a widespread domestic terror attack targeting politicians and journalists. Several news anchors were on the former Coast Guard lieutenant's hit-list. [Source: Washington Post]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Unusual weather today: More snow in Las Vegas and pea-size hail on Santa Barbara beaches!
- Bill Maher's open letter to Roseanne contains a lot of great points, as usual. [8-minute video]
- One East-Coaster to another: "I've blocked all Instagram pics from California." [New Yorker cartoon caption]
- "A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves." ~ Simone Weil
(5) An informal credibility poll, whose final results will become available later, has New York Times winning over Donald Trump 93% to 7% thus far. [Tweet images]
(6) Hostile guest on Fox News: Tucker Carlson's guest turns on him, and he doesn't like it one bit when the guest characterizes Fox News anchors as "millionaires funded by billionaires"!
(7) Silent film screening at UCSB's Pollock Theater, with live musical accompaniment: Tonight's black-and-white film was the recently-rediscovered John Ford classic comedy "Upstream" (1927). A post-screening reception allowed audience members to mingle with the musical performers Michael Mortilla (piano/composer), Nicole Garcia (violin/percussion), and Frank Macchia (mixed woodwinds). [Images]
(8) Final thought for the day: One greedy, selfish, and self-promoting person ("Empire" actor Jussie Smollett) has dealt a major blow to the cause of homosexuals and other targets of real hate crimes.

2019/02/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos from IEEE Central Coast Section's technical meeting on February 20, 2019 Some items displayed in a photo exhibit in connection with celebrating in Tehran the 50th anniversary of our graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering (1) Today's major events: [Left] IEEE Central Coast Section technical meeting at Rusty's Pizza in Goleta (5934 Calle Real): Behrooz Parhami spoke to about two-dozen attendees on "Promoting Technological Literacy through Mathematical and Logical Puzzles." Here are the talk's slides, which include an abstract and links to a number of pertinent YouTube videos. IEEE CCS meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:00 PM. We already have an exciting line-up of speakers, all the way to November 2019. (P.S.: The panoramic photo was taken a few minutes before the talk began and after the pizzas were gone!) [Center] Displays at a photo exhibit in connection with celebrating the 50th anniversary of our graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering. The empty swimming pool is at our family home in Vanak, Tehran, Iran. [Right] Photos from the February 20 celebration gala in Tehran, to mark the 50th anniversary of our graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering. [More photos] [Videos, batch 1] [Videos, batch 2, from an earlier gathering]
(2) Cryptic quote of the day [each letter stands for a different letter]: "HB HC HRXEV XDWVW'B CE HNXECEPG, NCZWBB GEN'VW YVWYHVWI XE VJBT XDW YEBBJAJZJXG EM BXHVSJCF." ~ AWC TJCFBZWG
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A refugee family fled civil war in Syria, only to have all 7 of their children die in a house fire in Canada.
- Massive winter storm is affecting wide areas of the US: More than 1000 flights have been cancelled.
- The case for optimism: Thirty-four people try to change how we see our world. [Time magazine feature]
- Cartoon of the day: Music thrives in Iran, despite official bans, restrictions, and censorship. [Image]
(4) The swamp lives on: E-mails between Senate Majority Leader and Trump's Secretary of Transportation reveal a cozy relationship that led to granting infrastructure contracts and other favors.
(5) Bully-in-Chief's bully-friend Roger Stone posts photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson (who issued a gag order against him) with crosshairs: He calls Mueller "Deep State hitman" and solicits money for his defense fund. How ironic that billionaires are asking for handouts from the lower and middle classes!
(6) Extreme hypocrisy: All the rich folk screaming for a border wall employ undocumented immigrants to maximize their personal and business wealth. The Wall-Builder-in-Chief has done it, and his nominee for UN Ambassadorship, Heather Nauert, has withdrawn her name from consideration over a "nanny problem."
(7) Israel will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon: The spacecraft, to be launched using SpaceX's Falcon 9 commercial rocket, is carrying capsules filled with Israeli national symbols, Jewish cultural items, and digital files detailing how this project came about. It also holds a tiny nanotech version of the Bible. That last item spoiled the whole thing! [Reported by Washington Post]
(8) As I walked back home this afternoon through Isla Vista, spring was in the air, even though its official arrival is still one month (4 weeks) away: Spring equinox (Norooz; Saal-Tahveel 1398) will be on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 2:58:27 PM California time. [Photo of blossoms on an Isla Vista street]

2019/02/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Justice, as defined by the ruling class! (Artist unknown) Scatter-plot of prevalence of mass shootings in some world countries versus the number of guns owned Impoverished kids in southeastern Iran playing a version of basketball (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Justice, as defined by the ruling class! (Artist unknown) [Center] Anyone who sees this chart and fails to acknowledge the direct impact of the number of guns in a society on the prevalence of mass shootings is science-averse. [Right] FIBA has shared on its official Web site this photo of impoverished kids in southeastern Iran playing a version of basketball.
(2) UCSB researchers advocate a change in biofuel sourcing, from currently used crops to deep-rooted prairie grass, e.g., which is better able to store carbon and also can grow in extremely infertile lands.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Internet explodes in response to Trump's tweet re Andrew McCabe's "60 Minutes" interview. [Tweets]
- Trump uses "many stats" as basis for his fake emergency declaration, but he wouldn't name his sources.
- Quote: "A fault that humbles a man is of greater value than a virtue that puffs him up." ~ Anonymous
- The Israeli group Carmel A-cappella performs Beethoven's 5th Symphony with just voices. [4-minute video]
(4) Bernie Sanders runs again: I am ambivalent about Sanders's candidacy. This speech from 15 years ago is prophetic about how Republicans implement pro-1% policies by skillfully branding them as pro-working-class and by sowing discord between white and colored, religious and non-religious, men and women, and so on. They have now added the evil of "socialism" to their lexicon for 2020. On the other hand, I am not sure I want to have another old, inflexible, learning-challenged person in the White House, no matter how much better than the current old fool he is. I am listening to the audiobook of Sanders's Where We Go from Here (read by Sanders himself) and cringe every time he says "eye-ran" and "eye-raq." Surely, he has been told many times about the correct pronunciations for country names!
(5) Extreme weather over the past couple of weeks: A plane is forced to land after being struck by lightning. Another plane's speed increased to 779 MPH, a record, due to a 224 MPH tailwind.
(6) "The Milan Protocol": This is the title of a 2017 film by German director Peter Ott, screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater tonight. In this gripping film, with theme music to match, a German female doctor (played by Catrin Striebeck), working in the Kurdish region of Iraq, is abducted while traveling in an ISIS-controlled region of Syria. The abductors identify themselves as former ISIS members who are trying to escape with their lives, apparently wanting to use their hostage as a bargaining chip. The hostage situation brings into play many shady players, including men from intelligence agencies of Germany, Turkey, and Iraq, and a slew of subplots involving smuggling and illegal arms deals, leaving the doctor confused as to whom she can trust. The story is told with frequent flashbacks and a mixture of reality, dreams, and false memories, which add to the layered complexity of the film. The dialog is in German, English, and Arabic, again adding to the mystery. Ott was scheduled to appear for a post-screening discussion, but visa problems led to the replacement of the in-person interview with a taped one, which was screened immediately after the film.

2019/02/18 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nine of America's great Presidents The long and Martian road: NASA's Opportunity Mars rover looking back at its own trail Full-scale models of two Mars rovers, on display at NASA's JPL (1) Today's images: [Left] Happy Presidents' Day: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." ~ John Quincy Adams [Center] The long and Martian road: NASA's Opportunity Mars rover looking back at its own trail. [Right] Full-scale models of two Mars rovers, on display at NASA's JPL: In front is Opportunity, which, after many years of service, became unresponsive due to a recent Martian sand storm. In the back is Curiosity, which is still operational. (Credit: Faramarz Davarian)
(2) Andrew McCabe talks to "60 Minutes" about reasons for opening a counterintelligence investigation into Trump: A very important conversation for the future of America. [28-minute video]
(3) Dictatorial tendencies rear their ugly heads: Un-American mindset of a substitute teacher in Florida leads to the arrest of an 11-year-old who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Sepandarmazgan, the venerable Iranian festival celebrating love, women, friendship, and Earth.
- Ivanka Trump sat awkwardly, as Angela Merkel hammered her dad.
- FAA will be mandating that registration numbers be affixed to the exterior of small drones. [Source: Reuters]
- Nuclear-powered "worm robots" could bore for life through the icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa.
- A brand new wine: For those who are tired of frequent trips to the bathroom. [Cartoon]
- Familiar faces, aging before our eyes, some very gracefully, others not so much. [3-minute video]
- How our young folk treat our elderly, nowadays. [Photo]
- Persian poetry: A few loverly verses from Simin Behbahani (Khalili) [1927-2014].
- Henan Shaolin Tagou School teens demonstrate Chinese martial arts with precision, grace, and power.
- Aspiring artists who became engineers: Priceless photo of a late friend and me, taken 50+ years ago.
(5) Reproducibility crisis in science: In some branches of science, existing large datasets are analyzed and deductions are made that do not stand the test of time. A large dataset is still one dataset, and in some cases, the patterns observed may not exist when a second dataset comes along.
(6) Israeli TV exposes the Iranian threat: From markets to restaurants, Persian cuisine is spreading in Israel. This 8-minute report is narrated in Hebrew, but food images should be understandable to all!
(7) National emergency in our president's skull: "Trump has declared war on our institutions because of a fantasy, in which he saves imaginary women, bound with imaginary tape, from imaginary rape." ~ LA Times

2019/02/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian music legend Esmat Bagherpour Baboli, aka Delkas, 1925-2004: Photo 1 Persian music legend Esmat Bagherpour Baboli, aka Delkas, 1925-2004: Photo 2 Portrait of actress Golshifteh Farahani by unknown artist (1) Iranian artists: [Left & Center] Persian music legend Esmat Bagherpour Baboli, aka Delkash, 1925-2004. [Right] Portrait of actress Golshifteh Farahani by unknown artist: Screenshot from an unlabeled music video.
(2) My forthcoming technical talk, entitled "Promoting Technological Literacy through Mathematical and Logical Puzzles," at a meeting of IEEE Central Coast Section: Rusty's Pizza, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta, CA, Wednesday, February 20, 2019, 6:00 PM. Pizza, salad, and beverages will be served. [Flyer]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The US government "informally" asked Japan to nominate Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize.
- Cartoon of the day: GOP national-emergency plan entails politicians rolling over on command! [Image]
- We do have a national emergency , but it's at the border between the rich and the poor. [Meme]
- Wonderful music for this Sunday: Five-year-old plays Bach! [2-minute video]
(4) Remembering and honoring my father yesterday, on the 27th anniversary of his passing: Despite many on-line appearances of this Persian poem, the poet remains unknown to me. Interestingly, some of the postings have removed the last verse, which mentions an edict from the prophet, presumably Muhammad. I will also retell parts of the story of my dad's fruitful life by recalling some of the places where he worked and lived, from a post I made last month about Vanak. [Photos] [Videos] My kids are all at home for the Presidents-Day weekend, so we took this commemorative photo after Sunday's breakfast at the kitchen counter.
(5) Prefixes for metric units of measurement: We all know the first three "huge" prefixes below, and perhaps even the next three, used, for example, in connection with supercomputer performance (e.g., petaflops). Now, get ready for the last four prefixes on the list, two of which are still awaiting approval from international bodies in charge of standard units.
10^3 kilo    10^6 mega    10^9 giga    10^12 tera    10^15 peta    10^18 exa
10^21 zeta    10^24 yotta    10^27 ronna    10^30 quecca
On the other end of the scale, to designate very small quantities, we have the following "tiny" prefixes:
10^–3 milli   10^–6 micro   10^–9 nano   10^–12 pico   10^–15 femto   10^–18 atto
10^–21 zepto   10^–24 yocto   10^–27 ronto   10^–30 quecto
Again, the last couple of terms are still under discussion for approval.
For huge prefixes, abbreviations are uppercase letters, except for kilo, which is abbreviated "k" (k, M, G, etc.). Uppercase "K" is sometimes used in computing to stand for 1024, or "binary kilo."
For tiny prefixes, abbreviations are lowercase letters, except for micro, which is abbreviated using the Greek "mu" or sometimes the English "u" (m, u, n, etc.).

2019/02/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An alley in Tehran's historic/cultural district: 'Alley of Break-off and Reconciliation' Cartoon: How the Islamic Revolution has affected different classes of people in Iran Information about spring equinox and saal-tahveel, the changeover to the Persian calendar year 1398 (1) Iran-related images: [Left] Alley in Tehran's historic/cultural district named "Break-off and Reconciliation" [Center] How the Islamic Revolution has affected different classes of people in Iran. (Source: Iranwire.com) [Right] The changeover to the Persian calendar year 1398 (saal-tahveel or spring equinox) will occur on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 2:58:27 PM California time. The corresponding Iran time will be on Thursday, Farvardin 1, 1398, at 1:28:27 AM. UCLA's Norooz celebration will occur on March 10.
(2) The three richest Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 50%. Millionaire politicians want you to believe that we have but two choices: Accept the status quo or starve to death under socialism! [Photos]
(3) Five people are dead and 5 officers wounded in Aurora, Illinois, mass shooting. When will our politicians say enough is enough, instead of just sending thoughts and prayers?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's 2014 tweet: If only his supporters cared that he's doing things for which he criticized Obama!
- Resistance to Trump's declaration of national emergency over border-wall funding begins.
- Trump ally indicates that with a confirmed, fully-functioning AG in place, Mueller's days are numbered.
- Yesterday, on Valentine's Day, Amazon fell out of love with New York and withdrew its HQ2 plans.
- "What this country needs is a billionaire businessman ..." [No thanks; been there, done that!] [Cartoon]
- Three books, selected by New York Times, detail the lives of Middle Eastern women. [Cover images]
- Azeri poetry: Adorable girl recites a poem, in which I can make out the names of several Iranian cities.
- One of two poems by Nasim Basiri, published by North of Oxford. [Image]
- Persian music, with lyrics based on a Hafez poem and English subtitles. [Video]
- From life's users manual: "Before talking, connect tongue to the brain." ~ Anonymous
(5) Azi Jangravi, one of the "Women of Revolution Street," says she braved certain arrest for taking off her headscarf in public because she desired better living conditions for her daughter.
(6) Final thought for the day: National Enquirer has threatened Jeff Bezos with the release of embarrassing personal info. Does it also have dirt on Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham, who were once harsh critics of Trump, but are now his avid supporters?

2019/02/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Celebration of love: Happy Valentine's Day! Celebration of love: Capturing the sun in a heart Celebration of love: Happy Sepandarmazgan Festival! (1) Celebration of love: Happy Western Valentine's Day (2/14) and Iranian Sepandarmazgan Festival (2/18)!
(2) Remembering poetess extraordinaire Forough Farrokhzad on this anniversary of her tragic, premature death in 1967: Music video by Kourosh Yazdani, based on Farrokhzad's poem "Ba'dhaa" ("Later on").
(3) The world's best tech city is New York, not San Francisco: The just published Savills Index bases its city ranking on factors such as cost of living, cost of doing business, investment opportunities, real estate prices, and access to transit. [Source: Bloomberg]
(4) After successful trials in American football and basketball, "True View" technology comes to soccer: Intel has partnered with several top UK teams to bring the 3D replay technology, which allows viewing of a play from multiple angels, to the teams' home stadiums.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Britain will hit Iran with sanctions it has already prepared immediately after the completion of Brexit.
- Mother of imprisoned Iranian girl takes off her headscarf to protest the cruel treatment of her daughter.
- Eight environmental activists, labeled as spies by the Iranian regime, are denied legal representation.
- Yesterday's high winds in Goleta led to this downed tree and a broken water meter.
- Quote of the day: "It is easy to be brave from a safe distance." ~ Aesop
- A story for little kids: "If Sharks Were Men," by Berthold Brecht. [4-minute video]
- Quotation: "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." ~ John Dewey
- Persian Music: Rana Mansour's live performance of "Zan" ("Woman"). [3-minute video]
(6) Two interesting distinguished/keynote lectures coming up at UCSB later this winter: On Thursday, February 28, Dr. John Paul Strachen (HP Labs, Palo Alto) will give an ECE Distinguished Lecture entitled "A New Era for Exploring Power Efficient Hardware Accelerators: Devices, Architectures, and Lab Demonstrations" (10:00 AM, ESB 1001). Then, as part of the day-long CS Summit at UCen's Corwin Pavilion on March 13, Lise Getoor (CS Professor, UCSC), will be the keynote speaker, with the title "Responsible Data Science."
(7) Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran: The former counterintelligence officer for US Air Force Office of Special Investigations defected to Iran in 2013 and remains at large.
(8) Leaked records from Iran's judiciary indicate that 860 journalists, a quarter of them women, have been arrested/imprisoned/executed over the 40-year reign of terror.

2019/02/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Truth-challenged President's numbers, versus reality (crowd sizes in El Paso, Texas) Yesterday (February 11, 2019) was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Yesterday, February 11 (Bahman 22), Islamic Republic officials celebrated the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Truth-challenged President's numbers, versus reality. [Center] Yesterday (February 11, 2019) was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. [Right] Yesterday, February 11 (Bahman 22), Islamic Republic officials celebrated the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution. Ordinary Iranians, who have nothing to celebrate, had been warned against holding street protests.
(2) Humor: Trump wants to also build a wall around New Mexico, because we don't need any New Mexicans while we are trying to get rid of the old ones.
(3) Liar-in-Chief contradicted by stats the Republican Mayor of El Paso cited: El Paso has always been one of the safest large cities in the US. Its crime rate went down before the border barrier was erected in the mid-2000s, and it actually rose slightly after the barrier. Trump keeps claiming that El Paso was a very dangerous city before the barrier and one of the safest afterwards. [Violent-crimes chart]
(4) Finally, a science-friendly executive order: Trump administration's "AI Initiative" will support research and commercialization, as well as training, fellowships, and regulations to help workers whose jobs are affected.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Melania Trump worked as a model in 1996, when she was an undocumented alien.
- Genentech uses virtual reality to train eye surgeons: Over 150 have used VR training in the past year.
- Researchers study a radically new kind of neural network to overcome AI's big challenges.
- California Governor Newsom pulls National Guard from border, citing Trump's political theater. [LA Times]
- Many Americans are in for a shock, as they see their tax refunds shrink substantially. [Washington Post]
- Persian music: Young boy with magical voice performs a traditional Persian song. [5-minute video]
(6) Researchers break the mathematical code of a 3700-year-old Babylonian clay tablet dug up in southern Iraq nearly a century ago: It contains a highly-accurate trig table, which means that trigonometry was discovered by Babylonians, not the Greek, as previously thought.
(7) No one stopped the pedophile doctor working for US Indian Health Services, who was under suspicion for 21 years. [Source: Wall Street Journal]
(8) Tonight's film screening at UCSB's Pollock Theater: We were treated to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," a screwball comedy about the Fab Four's fans and Beatlemania, as the third of five installments in the "Beatles Revolutions" series. The 1978 film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg. The screening of the story of non-stop screaming fans, who wanted to see the Beatles up close at their well-guarded hotel and get into the Ed Sullivan Theater where they were performing, was followed by a moderated discussion with actress Nancy Allen and screenwriter Bob Gale. [Images]

2019/02/10 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cherry blossoms in Tokyo, at sunrise Cover image of Ursula Le Guin's book 'Words Are My Matter' Maryam Zaree's 2019 film 'Born in Evin' tells the story of children like her who were born to mothers detained at Iran's Evin Prison (1) Images for today: [Left] Cherry blossoms in Tokyo, at sunrise. [Center] See my review of Ursula Le Guin's book, Words Are My Matter, below. [Right] Maryam Zaree's 2019 film "Born in Evin" tells the story of children like her who were born to mothers detained at Iran's Evin Prison. [Interview in Persian with Maryam Zaree]
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Why are men, even very powerful ones, so obsessed with taking and sending photos of their genitals?
- Pills equipped with tiny pop-up needles can inject medicine into a body from the inside.
- A brief tour of Venice, Italy: A city built on water. [1-minute video]
- Intelligence/memory tests: Chimps versus humans. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Breathtaking video combined with a nice rendition of the oldie "Ghowghay-e Setaregan."
- Persian poetry: The late poet/lyricist Rahim Moeini Kermanshahi recites a poem of his in this 1998 video.
(3) Book review: Le Guin, Ursula K., Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books 2000-2016, unabridged audiobook on 11 CDs, read by Laural Merlington, Tantor Audio, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This collection of essays/reviews/talks is about contemporary fiction. LeGuin [1929-2018] was an American author of fiction (often depicting futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds), short stories, and children's books. Some of the items have been revised from their original versions for inclusion in this book.
The 70 or so pieces in this collection are quite diverse, so I will comment on a few overarching themes that caught my attention.
The first theme is the place of books in our hurried, attention-challenged society. People continually predict that books are doomed. Le Guin counters that book-readers have always been a minority and they will continue to enjoy books in printed or electronic form. Authors, too, whose primary motivations are communication and the pure joy of writing, will continue to churn out books. If there is an element to blame for the challenges facing books it is the publishing industry, which views books much like cereals or deodorants: Products to be sold at maximum possible profit.
The second theme concerns the place of fiction in our modern world. Writing fiction requires imagination: To take real-world experiences and to spin them into made-up characters, places, and events. Many people are uncomfortable with this kind of imagination, which they consider akin to lying, so, when they decide to write, they opt for autobiographies, that is, realistic views of their own lives. Readers are also prone to this misjudgment, as they try to deduce aspects of the fiction-writer's life from his/her story. I must admit that I have entertained similar thoughts when reading fiction (which I do on occasion, despite my preference for non-fiction). If the author writes about an extra-marital affair, for example, my mind immediately wonders about whether it is an act or inclination of the author herself. It wasn't until I listened to Le Guin's audiobook that I became aware of this tendency of mine.
The third theme is the haughty attitude that prevails against "genered" books, such as sci-fi, romance, and the dismissively-labeled "chick-lit," a world view that essentially divides books into literature and genres. According to Le Guin, all fiction is to be considered literature.
The fourth and final theme for this review is the role of gender in literature/publishing. The designation "women's lit" is really quite offensive and gives rise to many anomalies. Women's books are reviewed by both men and women, whereas the works of male authors are less frequently reviewed by women. Le Guin was known for using her voice in the literary world to challenge gender stereotypes and gender inequality. Patriarchy, empowerment, womanhood, and freedom ran through her writings.
There is something for everyone in this delightful collection. Writers, in particular, will enjoy Le Guin's insights about the craft of writing and about the artificial categorization of literature, including those based on gender.

2019/02/09 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Freedom House's 2019 report on the status of basic freedoms in countries around the world Two white men in blackface John Meacham and the cover image of his book, 'The Soul of America' (1) Democracy and freedom in America: [Left] Freedom House's 2019 report on the status of basic freedoms in countries around the world: USA is 53rd! [Center] We need to make America great (not "great again"): If there is a silver-lining to the cloud of Trump's presidency, it is the exposure of hidden racism in America. You can't begin to solve a complex problem if you are unaware of it, pretend it doesn't exist, or do not grasp its full breadth and depth. [Right] See my review of Jon Meacham's book, The Soul of America, below.
(2) A new acronym: INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) is a clearinghouse formally set up on January 31, 2019, to facilitate non-dollar-based trade between Iran and European countries without exposing the participants to retaliation by the US, while encouraging Iran to keep its commitments under JCPOA.
(3) Brett Kavanaugh shows his true colors in a Supreme-Court case: He voted to allow a highly restrictive abortion law stand, when previously, SCOTUS had struck down an identical law. John Roberts saved the day by siding with the liberal minority. So much for Senator Susan Collins' stated confidence, when she voted for BK, that he would honor precedents in abortion and other cases.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Today is the US National Pizza Day: Many pizza chains offer special deals to mark the occasion.
- Bill Maher's monologue on the state of politics in the US, the Republicans, and Howard Schultz's candidacy.
- Not a joke: A 27-year-old Indian man plans to sue his parents for giving birth to him without his consent.
- Fun with technology: A parade of giant robotic animals. [5-minute video]
(5) Book review: Meacham, Jon, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author and Fred Sanders, Random House Audio, 2018.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I got to know the Pulitzer-Prize-winning presidential historian Jon Meacham through his editorials in Newsweek and Time magazines, which I read regularly for several years. Among his books are acclaimed biographical volumes on Andrew Jackson (2008), Thomas Jefferson (2012), and George H. W. Bush (2015).
Meacham's eulogy for GHWB, captured in this 12-minute video, was typical of his thoughtful and poignant writing/speaking style and wonderful sense of humor.
By citing examples from America's past, Meacham aims to educate the reader that the fear and division we experience today are far from unprecedented and that, as a nation, we have survived even worse times. We have risen through hard times and managed to move forward by forging programs such as the Square Deal, the New Deal, and the Great Society.
The soul of America is democratic and progressive, but there are forces of authoritarianism and racism that rear their ugly heads from time to time. Darkness and intolerance in our society is often opposed by our leaders, some of whom were quite unlikely champions of freedom and civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are prominent examples of the role of our "better angels" (to borrow a term from Lincoln's first inaugural address) prevailing against all odds.
Meacham ends his wonderfully-written book with a call for active engagement to reject tribalism and to respect facts. The fight will not be easy, and it will be mired by setbacks, but we really have no other option than to oppose the forces of darkness.

2019/02/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fiftieth anniversary celebration of graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering: Photo 2 Fiftieth anniversary celebration of graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering: Photo 1 (1) Fiftieth-anniversary celebration: Ahead of the February 20 formal celebration gala in Tehran, a group of 1968 graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering (my Fanni classmates) gathered on 2/06 at the College to take group photos, including one at a classroom that has been historically preserved as it was when we attended calculus lectures by Dr. Jamal Assaar. And, yes, our class was all-male, with the exception of one female electromechanics-major classmate who now lives in the US (there was another female contemporary in the chemical-engineering major).
(2) "A Structured Approach to Distributed Computation in Neural Networks": This was the title of yesterday's recruitment talk (the last one for the CS Neuroscience position) by E. Paxon Frady, a post-doc at UC Berkeley. Dr. Frady discussed how connectionist frameworks can be used to understand the information processing of neural networks. While our understanding how individual neurons work has been growing, there is currently a dearth of knowledge on how collections of neurons, distributed throughout the brain, collaborate and, thus, on how to program neural networks to perform computations of interest. [Photos]
(3) Dangers posed by eucalyptus globulus (blue gum) trees: Following numerous instances of giant eucalyptus trees shedding heavy limbs and occasionally being uprooted in strong winds, posing dangers to the housing community where I live and to UCSB's campus, and in view of dozens of e-mail exchanges about what to do with them, a neighbor posted this informative 2014 article about the species' structural failures. [Image]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Apple rewards 14-year-old Grant Thompson, who discovered FaceTime's eavesdropping bug (now patched).
- Another brilliant "A Closer Look" segment from comedian Seth Meyers, covering socialism and healthcare.
- An excellent overview (in Persian) of the status of Iranian women, as the Islamic Republic turns 40.
- 'Fauxtography' is now a fact of life: Say goodbye to real, unedited photos and videos!
(5) 'Reporters Without Borders' exposes Iran's arbitrary detention of journalists for fabricated charges of undermining national security, acting as foreign agents, and insulting Islamic tenets/leaders.
(6) Why would a well-to-do and already-famous journalist plagiarize? Surely, she knows it's unethical. And she knows, or should know, that detection of plagiarism is now easier than ever.
(7) Jeff Bezos preemptively publishes correspondence from AMI, including graphic descriptions of nude and other compromising photos they have of Bezos and his lover, to expose AMI's extortion attempt.
(8) Tonight, at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater: Los-Angeles-based Lian Ensemble performed in two sets. The first set consisted of traditional/classical Persian music. This 3-minute sample is from the second set, featuring the ensemble's own compositions, based on classical Persian poems (Mowlavi/Rumi, in this case).

2019/02/07 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Masih Alinejad and Mike Pompeo Title slide of Behrooz Parhami's February 20, 2019, talk in Goleta Rusty's Pizza in Goleta, CA (5934 Calle Real) (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Photo of women's-rights activist Masih Alinejad and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: See item (2) for details. [Center & Right] Technical talk in Goleta, CA: See item (3) for details.
(2) I was disappointed to see the photo on the left above and the associated news story: Masih Alinejad, Iranian women's-rights activist, met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who reassured her of Trump administration's support. So, I searched for Ms. Alinejad's explanation. According to a report by Radio Farda, after the 35-minute meeting, Alinejad explained, "I tried my utmost to be the voice of all those who put their trust in me," by highlighting three areas of concern. First, "Many Iranians want an end to the Islamic Republic. Opposition voices should be heard." Second, International community should focus on 40 years of human rights violations by the regime. Third, the Trump administration travel ban hurts human rights activists and students, not the regime. Still, I think Ms. Alinejad made a mistake in siding with Trump's war-mongering administration, which has aligned itself with some extremist enemies of Iran and seems to be eager to start a war with it.
(3) [In a couple of weeks] IEEE Central Coast Section event at Rusty's Pizza, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta, Wednesday, February 20, 2019, 6:00 PM (pizza, salad bar, and beverage, followed by presentation at 6:30).
Speaker: Dr. Behrooz Parhami, UCSB Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Title: Promoting Technological Literacy through Mathematical and Logical Puzzles
Abstract: Literacy and numeracy, introduced long ago to define the skill sets of a competent workforce are no longer adequate. Literacy is instilled and improved by telling stories that use more and more advanced vocabulary and grammar. The key tool in teaching and advancing numeracy is dealing with real-life problems, be they book-keeping and accounting tasks, analyzing geometric shapes and relationships, or deriving answers from (partially) supplied information. Teaching technical literacy (techeracy) requires a further shift away from story-telling and word problems toward logical reasoning, as reflected in the activity of solving puzzles. I will draw upon my experiences to convey how a diverse group of learners can be brought to understand the underpinnings of complex science and technology concepts such as integrated-circuit layout, recommendation systems, cryptography, and task scheduling.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The mother of all Freudian slips: Trump touts "the abolition of civil rights," crediting people of faith for it!
- Seven-vehicle crash on Highway 135 in Santa Maria leads to at least 2 deaths.
- Iranian Parliament's report acknowledges extreme poverty, encompassing more than half the population.
- Iranian officials withheld more than $1M earned by the country's national soccer team from the team.
(5) Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola apologize for marketing stunt involving napkins with space for name and phone number, and a message nudging plane passengers to hit on their 'plane crush.'
(6) US-Embassy hostage-taker nicknamed "Sister Mary," now Iran's VP for Women and Family Affairs, still does not see the light after 38 years: She asserts that Khomeini "spread democracy and stood against autocracy."

2019/02/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: The big bad wolf calls on the House of Representatives Photo of the backside of the Moon, along with Planet Earth, captured by a Chinese satellite State of the Union meme: Meteor and dinosaurs (1) Images of the day: [Left] The big bad wolf calls on the House of Representatives. [Center] Photo of the backside of the Moon, and Planet Earth, captured by a Chinese satellite. [Right] State of the Union meme.
(2) A big surprise for many people this tax season: Those who normally get a refund from IRS will either owe taxes or will see a smaller refund. The reason is that in the new tax code, withholdings were reduced to a greater extent than taxes. The lower withholdings created the illusion of a larger tax cut in our paychecks. So, we are essentially paying back part of the tax cut we thought we received. And things will get worse in future years. Billionaires and corporations will continue to enjoy their huge, permanent tax cuts, while the rest of us will see smaller and smaller benefits, especially as deductions disappear, healthcare costs rise, and many government services on which we rely are cut.
(3) California threatened by measles, from near and far: Washington State has reported 43 cases, a neighboring southern-Oregon county 1 case, and New York 200+ cases.
(4) Today's World Music Series noon concert: The 9-member Santa-Barbara-based Dixie Daddies and Mamas treated the audience to Dixieland music. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(5) Types of lying: I am puzzled by TV pundits constantly talking about the difference between lying under oath and just plain old lying, as if some kinds of lying are harmless or socially acceptable. When we raise children, do we tell them not to lie under oath but that regular lying is okay? Was Pinocchio blameless because he was never under oath? What does "the most successful president in the history of our country" tell his youngest son about lying? A good question for reporters, who asked him the easier question of whether he would let his son play football.
(6) On "digital humanities": Equating digital with new/modern and analog with old/passe is misguided. In the February 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM, Herbert Bruderer explains that the opposite of digital isn't analog and that using "digital" when we mean "electronic" is problematic. The first calculating device, the abacus, was digital, and numerous digital gadgets have been used through the ages. The predecessors of e-books, that is, paper books, cannot be considered analog books. So, the term "digital humanities" is misguided. Humanities are neither analog nor digital. A better term would be "computer-aided/assisted humanities."
(7) Decisions, decisions! UCLA's Persian lecture on Iran (Sunday, February 24, 2019, 4:00 PM, 121 Dodd Hall), entitled "From Instanbul to Chicago: Iranian Diaspora Across Time and Space" (by Fariba Zarinebaf), coincides with the Academy Awards ceremony from Hollywood's Dolby Theater, beginning at 5:00 PM on ABC. I am inclined to go to the lecture, but I remember, from a lecture event in the past, that attendance suffers when there are such time conflicts.

2019/02/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Chinese (lunar) new year and welcome to the year of the pig! Double-standard in wardrobe at Super Bowl halftime show: Adam Levine, 2019 Double-standard in wardrobe at Super Bowl halftime show: Janet Jackson, 2004 (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Happy Chinese New Year to everyone, and welcome to the year of the pig! [Center & Right] Double-standard in reacting to Adam Levine and Janet Jackson: Shirtless performance at Sunday's Super Bowl 2019 halftime show vs. fines levied for "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004.
(2) Adam Khan, inventor and manufacturer of a type of hard glass for cell phones, assisted FBI by wearing surveillance devices during meeting with Huawei reps at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
(3) World Freedom Report (by Freedom House) rebukes Trump: "No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms and principle."
(4) State of the Union Address: Fewer Democrats were no-shows at this year's SOTU Address, because they wanted to actively resist Trump, with record number of women in Congress (wearing white) and guests from immigrant and other slighted groups. Trump's speech in the US House was fake news; the real SOTU address will be transmitted in tweet-size chunks over the next few days!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump administration is planning delay tactics ahead of expected House request for Trump's tax records.
- Melting glaciers reveal landscapes and life forms that had been hidden from us for at least 40,000 years.
- Daring people and beautiful vistas: A wonderful combination! [2-minute video]
- The constant job growth rate over the period 2011-2018, as variously described by Donald Trump. [Chart]
- Colorado by drone: Breathtaking vistas (one in a series of amazing "by drone" travel videos on Vimeo).
- Not a new warning: Never leave your car engine running when you step away from the driver's seat.
(6) Book review: Gore, Al, Truth to Power (An Inconvenient Sequel), unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by the author and several others, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Al Gore's book 'Truth to Power (An Inconvenient Sequel)' This book, already made into a 2017 movie, paints a grim picture of domestic and international politics in the realm of global warming. While the Paris Climate-Change Accord can be viewed as a positive turn in the book's plot, the overall picture is quite negative. The election of Donald Trump derailed the slow but steady progress that was being made in curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, but now, no one, including Gore himself seems to know what to do, other than sound the alarm.
Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (both the book and the movie) did make a dent in shaping the public's perception of the seriousness of climate change and of the dangers that lie ahead if we choose not to act. The sequel comes at an even more critical time in our Earth's history, when several thresholds have already been crossed. But the book and film seem to have had fairly limited impact on public discourse in the US.
Anti-climate-change forces have been rather successful in sowing doubts about the reality of the threat and human-beings' role in its amplification, and they have been peddling a false narrative on the long-term economic harm of regulations and action plans. Like many other social and economic issues, climate-change has fallen prey to shortsighted views of populist leaders and the resulting political divide in society.
Reconciling a serious threat, that is decades out, with immediate concerns about jobs, wages, education, and healthcare, takes foresight and leadership, that, as I write this review, do not exist here in the United States. Technology seems to hold the only hope for stopping the worsening conditions and, eventually, reversing the harm already done.
Gore does an excellent job of presenting pertinent facts and the challenges posed by less-developed countries viewing pollution and global warming as First-World problems. India, for example, has argued that it has the same right as the US to cheap, oil-spurred industrialization. Any global solution must cut countries that are late-comers to industrial growth some slack, and that is where the current US administration, with its disdain for sacrifice and wealth-sharing, stands in the way.
All educated citizens of the world must read this book and/or see the movie based on it. Activism is important to keep the flame going, even if the prospects for immediate impact are dim. The book contains an extensive list of resources to help those who are inclined to act, as well as suggestions on how each individual might help.

2019/02/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Posthumous performances: Increasingly, entertainment contracts include language covering who controls and profits from virtual/holographic performances after the performer's death A success story in promoting diversity in computer science: Carnegie Mellon University's efforts and results discussed Quote about the US president being a fair target of criticism (1) Noteworthy memes/headlines: [Left] Posthumous performances: Increasingly, entertainment contracts include language covering who controls and profits from virtual/holographic performances after the performer's death (credit: Time magazine). [Center] A success story in promoting diversity in computer science: Efforts made and results achieved by Carnegie Mellon University are discussed in an article in the February 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM. [Right] This is exactly what ails us now: "The powers of the president will not be questioned." ~ Stephen Miller, Senior Policy Advisor to Donald Trump
(2) Well, I don't know if we needed yet another anti-Trump book, but here it is, a psycho-cultural critique from the author of Reality Hunger, David Shields: Nobody Hates Trump More than Trump: An Intervention [Cover]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- New England Patriots won 13-3 in the Super Bowl over LA Rams; the 3-3 score after 3+ quarters was odd!
- In a speech, Kim Jong Un describes the Trump administration as a racist billionaires' club.
- Trump's claim of having a very good memory debunked in a video compilation of memory fails.
- Small plane disintegrates, crashes into single-family home in SoCal, killing the pilot and 4 residents.
- How Asghar Farhadi, arguably Iran's best director, makes art of moral ambiguity (NYT).
- The estate of the late comedian Gary Shandling donates $15.2 million to UCLA's Medical School.
Book introductions: Three interesting titles from Princeton University Press (4) Book introductions: Three interesting titles from Princeton University Press.
- Kernighan, Brian W., Millions, Billions, Zillions: Defending Yourself in the World of Too Many Numbers
- Steiglitz, Ken, The Discrete Charm of the Machine: Why the World Became Digital
- McCormick, John, What Can Be Computed? A Practical Guide to the Theory of Computation
(5) The silver lining: Scientists and engineers took advantage of the deep freeze in the US Midwest to observe how robots function in such extreme weather conditions.
(6) Unusually strong winds led to many downed trees and broken tree limbs on the UCSB Campus, in my housing complex, and around Goleta yesterday. Clean-up is in progress, as are damage assessments and discussions about mitigating the hazards in future.
(7) Earl Maize (JPL) describes "Cassini, Saturn's Little Big Explorer" in this 20-minute TED talk. He will be the banquet speaker for South Coast's National Engineers Week event at Cal State University Channel Islands' Grand Salon on Friday 2/22. I am considering attending the event.

2019/02/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Humor: Kabob-e barg, after the sharp rise of meat prices in Iran Calligraphic rendition of a verse by Mowlavi (Rumi), by artist Javad Youssefi This bust of the late Iranian wrestler Gholamreza Takhti is on display in the US (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Kabob-e barg, after the sharp rise of meat prices in Iran. (For Persian non-speakers, the meme plays on the fact that "leaf" and a type of beef kabob share the same Persian word.) [Center] Calligraphic rendition of a Mowlavi (Rumi) verse, by Javad Youssefi. (This video contains more of his creations). [Right] This bust of the late Iranian wrestler Gholamreza Takhti honors his gesture of competing with one arm behind his back, when he noticed that his American opponent couldn't use an injured arm.
(2) The 2018 Turing Lecture by John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson, entitled "A New Golden Age of Computer Architecture," has been published, along with a link to the full lecture video, in the February 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM.
(3) Quote of the day: "If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact—not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." ~ Shimon Peres [1923-2016], Israeli President
(4) Long view of life: "A painting that looks flawless from a distance may appear as a collection of color patches up close. Perhaps you should take a long view of life to avoid seeing just spots." ~ Zoya Pirzad, We'll Get Used to It [My translation from Persian]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Way to start Black History Month: Photo of Virginia's Democratic governor from his med-school yearbook.
- Golshifteh Farahani plays a Kurdish fighter battling ISIS in the film "Girls of the Sun." [Persian interview]
- Persian Music: Innovative lip-synching. [1-minute video]
- WW II history: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin meet with each other and with Iran's Shah in Tehran. [Video]
(6) Aiming for defense funding: Today, I saw a TV ad from Boeing, touting its space technology and saying "the future of defense is here." It seems aerospace companies are positioning themselves to get a bigger piece of the "Space Force" pie.
(7) Another egotist builds a vanity tower: The 550-meter-tall Burj Jumeira in Dubai will display Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's thumb-print at its base.
(8) In its issue of February 4-11, 2019, Time magazine offers a special section on what to expect in the 2020s and another one on the socioeconomic changes in the 2030s.
(9) Trouble ahead for 2020: A new poll shows that 54% of Democrats feel party positions should be more moderate. About the same number think having a third party is good for the country. A third-party candidate won't draw many votes from Republicans, 87% of whom support Trump.

2019/02/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Flamboyant old man has a change of wardrobe! Iranian asylum seeker, journalist Behrouz Boochani, who wrote a book in Manus Island's offshore refugee detention camp, wins two of Australia's richest literary prizes Cartoon: The ideal Democratic candidate (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Roger Stone's change of wardrobe! [Center] Iranian asylum seeker, journalist Behrouz Boochani, who wrote a book in Manus Island's offshore refugee detention camp, wins two of Australia's richest literary prizes. [Right] The ideal candidate: "They want Biden's working-class appeal, Sanders's populist fervor, Beto's youthful charisma, Warren's fierce progressivism, Klobuchar's calm moderation, Harris's toughness, Brown's everyman image, Booker's media savvy, Gillibrand's feminist credentials, ..."
(2) Trump and the Republican Party seem headed for a divorce: Perhaps he is in search of a third party (like a third wife), after cheating on the first two (he was once a Democrat).
(3) Four days of expected rain (forecast), at times quite heavy, has led to evacuation orders for parts of Montecito, the area that was devastated by Thomas Fire and mud/debris flows last year. This downpour, captured around 7:50 AM at my home in Goleta, is good news for the drought in our area, but not so for the homeless or residents fearing another devastating mud/debris flow. By mid-afternoon, the sun had returned to Goleta, but US 101 is closed in both directions due to flooding and debris, and more rain is on the way over the next few days. Meanwhile, in Malibu, California, a street turns into a raging river.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Virginia's Democratic Governor urged to resign over revealed racist photo in his med-school yearbook.
- Aljazeera reports from Tehran on Islamic Republic's 40th-anniversary celebrations amid economic woes.
- America once loved billionaires: The likes of Donald Trump made it fall out of love with them.
- Iranian music and beautiful dance: No info about the performers. [3-minute video]
- A piece of space junk: A trash-bag-like object is circling the earth at a distance greater than the Moon's.
- Negar Ag's contribution to the site "Old Photos of Iran": Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Shiraz, 1974.
- A millennial made millions buying items off the clearance aisles of Walmart and reselling them on Amazon.
(5) Trump's love-hate relationship with the press: He grants an 85-minute interview to the "failing," "fake-news," and "enemy-of-the-people" New York Times, But it won't be long before he starts attacking it again.
(6) Recognizable speech generated from brain waves: The new Columbia University research results, published in Scientific Advances, raises hopes of being able to give voice to those without.
(7) Fiftieth-Anniversary celebration: Gathering in Tehran to honor the 1968 graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering ("Daaneshkadeh-ye Fanni") will occur on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. [Invitation]
(8) Fake news super-sharers: A Northeastern University study has found that just 16 Twitter users tweeted out nearly 80% of the misinformation posing as news in 2016, while 99% of users spread virtually no fake information. Among people categorized as left-leaning and centrists, fewer than 5% shared any fake information, while 11% of accounts belonging to those described as right-leaning shared misinformation made to look like legitimate news.

2019/02/01 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Face made up of many faces Iran appears as #45 on 'New York Times' list of 52 travel destinations for 2019 Floating trash patch in the Pacific which is twice the size of Texas (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Face made up of many faces. [Center] Iran appears as #45 on New York Times' list of 52 travel destinations for 2019 (extra image). [Right] Floating trash: An estimated 1.2-2.4 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year from rivers, accumulating in 5 different patches in the world's oceans. The largest of these, located between Hawaii and California, has an area twice the size of Texas or three times that of France (Photo credit: Time magazine, issue of February 4-11, 2019).
(2) On my 72nd birthday, as I do each year, I looked up the properties of the number 72. Here are the results.
Has 12 divisors, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 72; Is half a gross, or six dozen; Is the product of 2^3 and 3^2; Is a master number, in esoteric numerology; Is the sum of four consecutive primes, 13 + 17 + 19 + 23; Is the sum of six consecutive primes, 5 + 7 + 11 + 13 + 17 + 19; Is the smallest number whose 5th power is the sum of five smaller 5th powers, 19^5 + 43^5 + 46^5 + 47^5 + 67^5; Is the measure of each exterior angle of a regular pentagon, in degrees; Is generally considered room temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit; Is the point size that makes characters 1 inch tall (a point is 1/72 of an inch); Is the number of strings (24 triple strings) on the Persian classical instrument santur; Is the number of virgins promised to martyrs in heaven, according to Islam; When appearing at the end of a year's number, makes it a leap year; When divided by the annual rate of return yields the number of years it takes for an investment to double ("The rule of 72").
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- More than 2 dozen deaths in 8 states blamed on the cold spell resulting from the polar vortex.
- Blackouts in the US Midwest add to the challenges posed by record-low temperatures.
- Trump not only lies himself but makes false statements on behalf of others!
- Good news on the women's rights front: Lebanon gets its first female Interior Minister. [Persian report]
- A poisonous variety of mushroom is spreading in North America's urban areas, putting children at risk.
- In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, scientists suggest that the universe's dark energy is growing.
- A fleet of robotic valets will park cars at London's Gatwick Airport.
- Amazon will fund many computer science classes at NY-area high schools ahead of its HQ2 placement.
(4) Multislacking: A relatively new word that means having multiple windows open on your screen to create the appearance of working, while actually slacking. [From an audio course entitled "The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins," which I am pursuing now.]
(5) Direct Relief International's new $40 million headquarters has been named after former UCSB Professor and nanotechnology pioneer Dr. Virgil Elings, who donated $5.1 million to complete its funding. Elings has donated significantly in Southern California and elsewhere, including to UCSB, Dos Pueblos High School, and other institutions. Direct Relief International is one of the most effective charities and does a remarkable job of distributing medicine and other supplies after natural disasters. I highly recommend donating to it.

2019/01/30 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Roger Stone is all smiles as he is arrested World Music Series: Dannsair performed Irish (dance) music in today's noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl Minnesota man wears shorts during the state's deepest freeze in decades, which can lead to frostbite in minutes (1) Images of the day: [Left] Rich people smile and have fun when they get arrested, while poor people become gloomy and nervous. [Center] World Music Series: Dannsair performed Irish (dance) music in today's noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl (see item 2 below for details). [Right] Unprecedented cold spell: Chicago city authorities lit fires under elevated train tracks to prevent damage to the rails. Meanwhile, this Minnesota man wears shorts during the state's deepest freeze in decades, which can cause frostbite in minutes.
(2) Noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: Dannsair, a Santa Barbara-based band boasting several UCSB music graduates, performed wonderful Irish music, with the band leader providing colorful commentary. I had taken along my home-made egg-salad with crackers for lunch; the rose in this photo was given to me as I walked by the library on my way to the concert venue, for reasons unknown. Sample music follows. [Video 1] [Video 2, country-style film music] [Video 3, dance tune from "Titanic"] [Video 4, a jig tune] [Video 5; stayed a few minutes longer to record this one, and, as a result, had to run to make it to my 1:00 PM office hour!]
(3) Smear campaign against Robert Mueller and his investigation: Russians are using materials provided by Mueller's team to Concord Management, the indicted Russian company, to discredit the investigation into Moscow's election interference. Some of the documents used have been altered.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump celebrates a flat market over the past year, as DJIA returns to where it was on January 4, 2018.
- Seth Meyers' "A Closer Look": Informative and funny. Are we in for a wag-the-dog war in Venezuela?
- DNA testing may reveal the identities of anonymous sperm donors, creating problems at both ends.
- Fun with art: Mona Lisa brought to life by artist James Dean Wilson. [1-minute video]
- Wonderful street art, combining wall paintings with existing plants. [1-minute video]
- Persian music: A 1-minute video clip from Molook Zarrabi, a pioneering woman singer in Iran.
(5) The Robomart start-up in Santa Clara, CA, will soon dispatch "grocery stores on wheels" in some Greater-Boston neighborhoods. Customers summon the vehicles, open their sliding doors with a phone app, and are automatically charged as they remove the RFID-tagged items. [Photo]
(6) Sarah Huckabee Sanders: God wanted Trump to become president. Me: Perhaps Robert Mueller should include God in his Russia probe!
(7) Final thought for the day: "A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special." ~ Nelson Mandela

2019/01/29 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This adorable little girl is disappointed at Iran losing to Japan 0-3 in soccer's Asian Cup semifinals Norway endeavors to build the world's first floating tunnel Coldest wind-chills from the polar vortex (weather map) (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] This adorable little girl is disappointed at Iran losing to Japan 0-3 in soccer's Asian Cup semifinals. [Center] Norway endeavors to build the world's first floating tunnel: Less visual clutter than a bridge, cheaper than a regular tunnel. [Right] Coldest wind-chills from the polar vortex: My thoughts are with Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri friends. Stay safe!
(2) Quote of the day: "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." ~ Author/poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
(3) Water returns to Zayandeh Rood: People of Isfahan celebrate in this undated video, as the river, whose name means "Life-Giving," sees water after a long drought.
(4) You can be freezing in the US Midwest today, while we experience one of the hottest years on record globally: Local weather fluctuations and long-term global climate trends are different things. Someone please show this video to Trump, although he will likely dismiss it as fake news.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Intelligence chiefs disagree with Trump on threats from Iran and North Korea and on the demise of ISIS.
- John Bolton lets the cat out of the bag by displaying his notepad, intentionally or absent-mindedly.
- This rich old white dude (Senator Graham) wants to manufacture another financial crisis over wall funding!
- Pink Martini: If you want hours of easy-listening jazz/Latin music, this YouTube channel is for you.
(6) A glitch in Apple's group FaceTime allows eavesdropping on conversations and access to your microphone and camera, before you join and even if you don't. Apple has disabled the feature until a fix is put in.
(7) Colonel Larry Wilkerson speaks up against a war with Iran: As a young man, he went to Vietnam to fight a war "built on lies." As an older man, he presided as Chief of Staff at the US State Department, where he helped justify another war built on lies, the Iraq war, which history will judge as a catastrophic geopolitical decision. Wilkerson says he wishes he had resigned at the time. Now, he sees the beginnings of another war built on lies and warns us that "we have seen this picture before." The new lies are promoted by the same people who helped start the Iraq war. [5-minute video]
Images about the documentary 'The Point of No Return' about the first fully solar-powered flight around the world (8) "Point of No Return": This was the title of a 2018 feature film screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater tonight. The film documents the story of the first fully solar-powered flight around the world. The challenging 26,000-mile journey took 505 days, at an average speed of about 45 MPH. The aircraft, with 17,000 solar cells and a wingspan of 235 ft, weighed only 2.4 tons. The control room filled with support staff looked very much like that of a space mission. The screening was followed by a moderated discussion with the film's co-directors, Noel Dockstader and Quinn Kanaly. [Images]

2019/01/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Screen shot from BBC Persian's 'Pargar' program on Iranian women's agency (1) Women's agency in Iran: BBC Persian's "Pargar" program features a 52-minute debate between Prof. Nayereh Tohidi (someone who grew up in a traditional family but rose to high educational attainment and was a participant in the Revolution) and Ms. Soudeh Rad (a women's-rights activist who was born after the Revolution and has directly experienced only Iran's Islamic government and its misogynistic laws).
The debate's topic is whether the remarkable activism of Iranian women is at least in part due to the Islamic Revolution or occurs in spite of it. This is an important discussion that should be continued.
The differences in viewpoints between the two guests are subtle, as both are devout feminists (and end up endorsing each other's views on many points), but I find myself in greater agreement with Ms. Rad that the restrictions imposed on women by Iran's Islamic rulers and their patriarchal supporters have motivated women to act but have also served to channel their activism into relatively safer secondary disobedience (not donning "proper" hijab, wearing colorful clothes, and pursuit of beauty, including opting for cosmetic surgery), rather than a true pursuit of equality.
As Dr. Tohidi states, in sociopolitical domains, it is difficult to answer hypothetical questions such as where Iranian women would be today, that is, more or less empowered, had the Islamic Revolution not occurred, but my gut feeling tells me that they would be better off than they are today. It is indeed unclear whether Iranian women's greater presence at institutions of higher learning or as book authors, to cite just two examples, would have been as extensive in the absence of the Islamic Revolution.
(2) Returning from class just before noon, I encountered a "Take a Nap" sign from UCSB Health & Wellness, along with a table, presumably offering tips on taking a nap. Alas, I had to be at my office hour at noon!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The beginning of an announcement e-mail from NSF about resumption of scientific activities.
- Thank you anti-vaxxers for bringing measles back to the US. Making America great again!
- Upcoming winter and spring events in UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. [Table]
- Upcoming events at UCLA sponsored by Pourdavoud Center for the Study of the Iranian World. [Table]
- Humor: Iranian man's secret to catching fish! [1-minute video]
- Persian music: Bahar Choir honors Iranian opera singer Pari Zangeneh, 79, in this touching tribute.
- "It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe." ~ Robert W. Service
(4) Bias as a human defense mechanism against information overload: The remarkable human brain can store several terabytes of information, according to Robert Birge of Syracuse University, yet this is only one-millionth of the information produced in the world each day, per IBM estimates. So, we have to be extremely selective about the information we choose to remember. In his 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Tofler hypothesized that one way of dealing with information overload is to simplify the world in ways that confirm our biases, shedding nuances and key details in the process. As a result, rather than serving to bring us together, more information tends to push us into the familiar confines of our biases.
Also relevant to the notions above is a view of judgment as lazy thinking (from an October 2018 Facebook post of mine). When you see something new, your brain goes into overdrive until you identify it and assign a noun to it ("Oh, that's a fork"); you then relax and stop thinking. The same is true with regard to people ("Oh, that's a Latino/feminist/Republican"). Stoppage of thinking at this point makes you miss all the nuances. [Video]
(5) Final thought for the day: "Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it." ~ Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

2019/01/27 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Time magazine, issue of January 28, 2019 (1) How to fix social media before it's too late: Early tech investor Roger McNamee opines on democracy, privacy, controlling your data, regulation, making it human, addiction, and protecting children. A must-read for anyone who cares and worries about where social media are taking us.
In the same issue of Time magazine:
- Tim Cook urges taking action on privacy.
- Maria Ressa expresses optimism that FB can fulfill its original promise.
- Laurie Segall demarcates some of the scary aspects of technology.
- Eli Pariser vouches for restoring dignity to technology.
- Donald Graham indicates that he'd bet on FB's efforts to fix its mistakes.
(2) Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day: Let's remember the atrocities and renew our "never again" pledge! This UN-designated day commemorates the genocide that led to the death of 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
(3) If everyone thinks outside the box, things in the box won't get done!
(4) History of space-flight computers: In the article "First-Hand Hacking Apollo's Guidance Computer," Walt Whipple gives a first-person account of how a hack of a relatively primitive computer to allow memory and I/O channel dumps facilitated system diagnostics. [Related link: "Human Space Travel Primary Sources"]
(5) "US Sanctions: Unfulfilled Expectations and Challenges Facing the Iranian Economy" (Slides/Charts): This was the title of today's Persian lecture at UCLA's Dodd Hall, Room 121, which will repeat tomorrow in English at Kaplan Hall, Room 365, as part of the Iranian Studies Outreach Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. The speaker, Dr. Hashem Pesaran, is a Distinguished Chair Professor of Economics at USC and Emeritus Professor of Economics at Trinity College, Cambridge. Professor Pesaran has earned numerous recognitions, including honorary degrees, in the course of his career.
Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, Professor of Gender and Women Studies at Cal State Northridge and Coordinator of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series, introduced the speaker and moderated the discussion that followed the lecture.
Dr. Pesaran began with what he called the good news, Iran's economic potential in theory, before dealing with the bad news of why the potential is not realized in practice. In the 40 years since the Islamic Revolution, a number of hardships (wars and sanctions) and internal mismanagement have impacted the country's economy. Iran's $425-billion economy is the second largest in the region, after Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Iran possesses the world's largest natural-gas reserves, a young population (60% under 30), a citizenry that is 15% university-educated, and a vast cultural heritage (22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
There is now enough data from Iran's economy (18 years prior to the Islamic Revolution, that is, 1960-1978, and 40 years after) to carry out analyses and issue verdicts about what has caused the dysfunction. Post-Revolution, Iran has had a 2.5% annual growth, compared with 3.1% for Middle East and North Africa as a whole. Iran's GDP growth nearly matches its population growth, implying that things remain the same on a per-capita basis. Inflation has averaged 17%, falling to 10% after JCPOA but rising again with the new sanctions. Averages, of course, do not tell the entire story, as they do not reflect volatilities and fluctuations that create economic uncertainty.
The unemployment rate has averaged 12%, but it is much higher for the youth and women (30-40%). Economic growth fell significantly after the Revolution. This drop and the aforementioned volatility are evident in the chart in one of the slides, where the red line reflects the world average. Another slide shows the currency exchange rate, where blue signifies the official rate and red denotes the free-market rate. This duality of exchange rate (there are actually more than two rates) as well as subsidizing essential products is one of the sources of rampant corruption, as people and organizations take advantage of their access to more favorable rates to make ilicit profits. Yet another slide shows the value-drop of the Iranian rial during the terms of various recent Iranian presidents (Rafsanjani, factor of 5.8; Khatami, 4.9; Ahmadinejad, 3.7; Rouhani, 3.4).
Dr. Pesaran then discussed the effects of cumulative inflation, which although not a direct cause of currency devaluation, is related to it. The difference between average inflation in Iran (17%) and the US (3%) causes significant cumulative inflation, which sometimes leads the rise of the dollar and sometimes trails it, but the two indicators rise pretty much in tandem (slide, with blue line showing the price of dollar and red line representing cumulative inflation). For comparison, the corresponding figures for other countries in the region and a couple of oil-producing countries outside the region (included to show that possessing oil isn't necessarily the curse) are shown on one of the slides.
Dr. Pesaran pointed to economic mismanagement as the primary cause of Iran's economic woes. Part of this mismanagement pertains to populist policies that don't make economic sense, lack of stable policies with regard to the private sector, the existence of a huge semi-private sector, outdated banking and financial systems, and, as pointed out earlier, having multiple exchange rates that lead to inflation and corruption.
The effects of sanctions are highlighted on one of the slides, where economic growths during the low-impact sanctions of 1990-2005 and high-impact sanctions of 2006-2015 are compared. Using the average of some countries forming our comparison group, one can deduce that about 2.5% of the growth dip can be attributed to world economy and the rest is damage resulting from sanctions.
Another chart in the slides compares Iran's domestic oil use with production. Still another slide, depicting Iran's poverty map, shows that as low as the economic growth has been, its benefits have gone predominantly to the rich, which has led to a worsening of poverty in the country. Interestingly, Iran has always enjoyed substantial foreign currency reserves, which could have been used for controlling the exchange rate, but weren't.
Dr. Pesaran then showed portions of President Trump's Executive Order (see two of the slides) regarding Iran sanctions and urged everyone to examine it carefully. Explicitly included in the Order are concerns about Iran's missiles program and its automotive industries which, for some reason, are seen as threatening to the US.
To summarize, sanctions have had significant direct and indirect effects on the Iranian economy. However, the major share of the blame for Iran's economic woes goes to inept economic policies, including the tendency to pursue isolationism. Today's world does not allow isolationist economies to prosper. Even China, which was isolated for many decades, can no longer ignore the global economy and return to isolationism.
The Iranian government has recognized the importance of technology to the country's economy, which has led to less control over Internet access and emergence of higher-quality communication services. DigiKala, Iran's version of Amazon, has had a significant impact on making prices transparent, thus empowering consumers to find better deals, which were unavailable with secret, arbitrary prices of yore. This is a trend that cannot be reversed and is a positive omen overall.
[Note: The version of this report posted on Facebook also has a Persian version at the end.]

2019/01/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Image of robotic hand, playing chess Four-layer pudding-jello dessert for today's family gathering Misogynists at work: Photo of a friend, PhotoShopped by the staff of an Iranian scientific journal where her paper was published, to make her long, flowing hair and smile disappear (1) Random images: [Left] Google's AlphaZero, which trained itself and beat the human-trained Go champion AlphaGo program, now also excels at Chess and Shogi: The next frontier is for it to tackle more challenging games that entail imperfect information (Go and Chess are examples of games that are played with perfect information). [Center] Dessert for today's family gathering: Layers from the bottom are sandwich cookies (not visible), sugar-free lemon pudding, sugar-free orange jello, and fruit toppings. [Right] Misogynists at work: A friend posted this photo of her, PhotoShopped by the staff of an Iranian scientific journal where her paper was published, to make her long, flowing hair and smile disappear. I commented thus: "They are so stuck in the Middle Ages that it's laughable. The funny thing is that the person enforcing these ridiculous laws may not even believe in them himself; he is just following the mob. They are also afraid of smiling people. I remember the anti-smile question: 'Nishet chera baazeh?' So sad!"
(2) This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill: The spill left an indelible mark on the idyllic South-Coast community and helped spur the national environmental movement, including the establishment of Earth Day to raise awareness. [Images from Santa Barbara Independent]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- FBI Director Wray slams the government shutdown which has affected all his underlings in serious ways.
- There is an $18,000 gender pay gap among scientists, according to the latest salary-data analysis.
- What is the hardest part of studying computer science? Getting into classes you need to graduate.
- Bodies-on-a-chip: Proxies for living beings may alleviate the need for lab animals, help cure diseases.
- What do Mars astronauts and the elderly have in common? Loneliness, osteoporosis, muscle-mass loss.
- George Mason University's student meal plans now include an option for food delivery by a fleet of robots.
- Dueling instruments: Guitarist mimics the rhythms and sounds of tonbak (goblet drum). [3-minute video]
- Persian music: LA-based Lian Ensemble is coming to UCSB on Friday, February 9. [10-minute video]
(4) The most-productive plane factory: Boeing 737 assembly line, where 42 planes roll off per month, each one taking 9 days from start to finish (which means more than a dozen planes are being worked on at once).
(5) The effect of a terminal master's degree: According to Computing Research Association, those with a terminal master's degree prior to earning a PhD in computing are twice as likely to have first-author journal publications than those without a terminal master's degree.
(6) Trump signs temporary end to government shutdown: He went from deal-man to tariff-man. Now, his nickname has changed to cave-man, because he caved. Some consider this nickname an insult to cavemen.

2019/01/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Screening of 'Let It Be' at UCSB's Pollock Theater on January 24, 2019: Image 1 Screening of 'Let It Be' at UCSB's Pollock Theater on January 24, 2019: Image 2 Screening of 'Let It Be' at UCSB's Pollock Theater on January 24, 2019: Image 3 (1) "Beatles Revolutions" film series: The second of five Beatles-related films, "Let It Be," was screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater last night. The packed house was also treated to a discussion (moderated by UCSB's David Novak) about the film with Santa-Barbara-native musician and producer Alan Parsons, of the "Alan Parsons Project" fame, who was a 20-year-old sound person at the Beatles January 29, 1969, roof-top concert prominently featured in the documentary film. The film, intended to showcase the band's creative process, ended up documenting the Fab Four's final days together, as the film was released a month after the Beatles disbanded. Tensions among Paul, John, George, and Ringo are evident as they rehearse and perform at the iconic concert atop London's Apple Studio.
(2) Bus Line 28 between UCSB campus and Camino Real Marketplace: This afternoon, I rode a brand-new tram/train-like double-length bus. Line-28 rides are free to UCSB faculty/staff/students, providing a convenient way of getting to shopping and alternative dining joints. [Photos of the inside and outside of the bus]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Skilled fed workers consider private-sector careers: So, when the shutdown ends, its effects will linger.
- Trump friend and confidant Roger Stone has been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
- Comedy news: Seth Meyers takes a closer look at government shutdown and official reactions.
- Cartoon of the day: US government shutdown. [Uncle Sam needs winding up!]
- The penny that sold for $204,000: The 1943 penny had been minted in bronze instead of zinc-coated steel.
- Amazon's cooler-box-size delivery robot rolls along sidewalks to deliver packages in north Seattle.
- Give/accept hugs when you can: They're good for your health; even animals need them! [2-minute video]
- Heavenly Iranian food, served at a popular restaurant in Tehran's Bazaar. [1-minute video]
- Regional folk music of Iran: A wonderful performance of "Mah Pishanoo." [3-minute video]
- Magic act involving cigarettes and paper napkins: This act is hard to watch, but impressive nonetheless.
(4) Violinist Leonidas Kavakos in concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight: Kavakos was superb throughout, playing some very challenging pieces, particularly right after the intermission and at the very end (Program). Enrico Pace, the pianist who accompanied Kavakos was every bit as good. A treat in every way!
Here is an 11-minute sample of the violin maestro's work on YouTube.
[In the margins: Watching the performance tonight, it occurred to me that if there is one job in the world that can be easily removed/automated it is that of the page-turner for a pianist. The page turner must be musically savvy to know when to turn the page, making her (yes, it's usually a woman) the least-efficiently utilized talent on any stage. True, the job can be viewed as a form of apprenticeship, but still ...]

2019/01/24 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cutlet sandwich with mint: What I took along to eat during yesterday's noon music concert A clear view of the Channel Islands in Goleta yesterday, 2019/01/23 Cartoon: Iranian government's budget allocation to different constituents, graphically illustrated (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cutlet sandwich with mint: What I took along to eat during yesterday's noon music concert. And no, I did not eat both of them at once! [Center] A clear view of the Channel Islands in Goleta yesterday: This spring-like sunny day made us forget the cold, wet days of last week, but winter rains are not over. [Right] Iranian government's budget allocation to different constituents, graphically illustrated.
(2) Trump's new rhyming message for his campaign generates huge backlash: He wrote, "Build a wall & crime will fall," to which people responded, "Oppose a wall & Trump will fall" and "Mexico will pay, you used to say"!
(3) Trump named Nancy Pelosi in a statement and followed her full name by "whom I call Nancy": Sounded like he was ready to reveal a nickname/insult for Pelosi, but chickened out at the last second.
(4) After Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he may be remembered in his eulogy for lying for Trump, the Internet is having fun with suggestions on what should be etched on his tombstone: "Here lies Rudy Giuliani. And everywhere lied Rudy Giuliani." [Image]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Democrats' and Trump's plans to re-open the government both fail in the US Senate: Now what?
- After Giuliani's denial that plans for Trump Tower Moscow ever existed, BuzzFeed published this image.
- Political Humor: Trump's plan-B is to deliver the State of the Union Address at a DC McDonald's.
- Actor Jorge Antonio Guerrero, star of Oscar-nominated "Roma," is denied US visa to attend the Oscars.
- Iranian FM Zarif met with Iraqi minorities re their rights and national unity: Will he do the same in Iran?
- Woman who accused Iranian MP of rape found dead: Not known whether it was suicide or murder.
- Cargo plane crash in Iran kills 15 of 16 on board: Failed navigation system blamed. No one else was hurt.
- Spring-like weather, with highs of ~70 degrees, in store for us in Santa Barbara for another week. [Image]
(6) Social harm coming from child marriages: There is much discussion on Twitter about child marriages in Iran, with users sharing personal stories from their own or their friends' experiences. Here is one example.
(7) A bit late for MLK Day, but still worth posting: Martin Luther King is remembered mostly for his "I Have a Dream" speech, envisaging equal opportunities, regardless of one's skin color. Lesser known is his more poignant speech about Vietnam, in which he characterized the war as an enemy of the poor, given that young black men were sent to "guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem." [Adapted from an article by Viet Thanh Nguyen, in Time magazine, issue of Jan. 28, 2019]
(8) Final thought for the day: "The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist." ~ Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

2019/01/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The colorful fire-throated hummingbird David T. Walter's colorful carpet made of 2500 Hot Wheels toys Colorful art from a collection of temporary tattoos (1) Art and nature in full color: [Left] Fire-throated hummingbird. [Center] Traffic jam: David T. Walter turns 2500 Hot Wheels toys into a colorful carpet. [Right] Colorful art from a collection of temporary tattoos.
(2) A lie has no horn or tail: This Persian saying advises us that lies sometimes look quite normal, so we must be vigilant in identifying and exposing them. A historian did just that about Mike Pence's statement that likened Donald Trump to MLK.
(3) Losers who feel entitled to love and sex aren't as uncommon as one might think: A massacre of the kind this man was thinking about (killing as many girls as he could) happened near UCSB some 5 years ago. We all need to learn to see the signs and to act on suspicious behavior on social media and elsewhere.
(4) Energy intensity of transportation: According to an opinion piece in the Jan. 2019 issue of IEEE Spectrum, a single person driving a Honda Civic consumes 2 megajoules of energy per passenger-kilometer (2 MJ/pkm). With two occupants in the car, the energy intensity drops to 1 MJ/pkm, the same as that of a half-full bus. A full jetliner has an energy intensity of 1.5 MJ/pkm. Newer inter-city high-speed trains in Europe and Japan consume about 0.2 MJ/pkm. The best subways require less than 0.1 MJ/pkm, making them the least energy-intensive mode of transportation.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Remarkable examples of cooperation, coordination, and trust. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Paris-based Bahar Choir collaborates with, and performs a piece by, Majid Derakhshan.
- Persian music: Chance meeting of two young Iranian pianists, Saman Ehteshami and Payam Samimi.
- Persian music: Rana Mansour's jazzy "Shohar-e Pooldar Nemikham" ("I Don't Want a Rich Husband").
(6) The fight for the future of the disk drive: Recording-density improvements of around 40% per year over the past few decades have recently dropped to ~10%. Seagate and Western Digital, aware of this problem, have opted for different approaches to solving it, one using microwave-assisted magnetic recording and the other using heat assist. It remains to be seen which approach wins. [From: IEEE Spectrum, issue of January 2019]
(7) World Music Series noon concert: Mariachi Las Olas de SB was supposed to perform at UCSB's Music Bowl today, but they couldn't make it. Instead a few members of two different local mariachi bands appeared and did an excellent job of entertaining the crowd and getting everyone involved in sing-alongs. [Video 1] [Video 2]
(8) Final thought for the day: "Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty." ~ Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

2019/01/22 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Adam Barr's 'The Problem with Software: Why Smart Engineers Write Bad Code' This year's Oscar-nominated lead actors and actresses A clever bookstore sign reads: Alternative facts can be found in our fiction section (1) Oscar nominees, sandwiched between book-related images: [Left] When good engineers write bad software: Interview with Adam Barr, author of a new book on software development, Why Smart Engineers Write Bad Code. [Center] This year's Oscar-nominated lead actors and actresses. (List of Oscar nominees) [Right] A clever bookstore sign reads: Alternative facts can be found in our fiction section.
(2) CS neuroscience faculty candidate talk: Decisions, decisions! There were two interesting but overlapping talks on campus this afternoon. Normally, in such cases, I choose one of the talks to attend, but today, I decided to sample the 3:30 talk and show up a tad late to the 4:00 talk. And I am glad I did!
Michael Bayeler (post-doc, U. Washington) talked about "Biologically Inspired Algorithms for Restoring Vision to the Blind." My understanding of the field of retinal prostheses is that most kinds of blindness and other visual impairments will soon disappear, as we learn to integrate light sensors with human brain's visual signal processing system.
Dr. Beyeler presented and discussed evidence showing nontrivial perceptual distortions caused by interactions between implant electronics and retinal neurophysiology. He then discussed how detailed knowledge of the visual system can be combined with data-driven techniques to develop novel encoding algorithms aimed at minimizing distortions and improving patient outcomes. He closed by outlining future strategies for leveraging virtual/augmented reality to quickly and efficiently test novel stimulation strategies in real-world tasks using visually typical individuals as 'virtual patients.' [Images]
Dr. Maryam Kia-Keating delivering a lecture at UCSB Library's Pacific View Room (3) UCSB Library's Pacific View Lecture: Dr. Maryam Kia-Keating (UCSB Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, www.kiakeating.com) presented a very interesting and informative lecture this afternoon under the title "Exiled: Loss and Resilience Among Refugee and Forcibly Displaced Youth and Communities." [Slides]
When we think of refugees, we often visualize war and political unrest. However, forced displacements also occur because of economic instability, violence, natural disasters, and, most recently, climate change. The refugee problem is now worse than it has ever been, with one person forcibly displaced every 2 seconds worldwide. More than half of the refugees are children, who are particularly vulnerable to the sense of hopelessness resulting from having no home. The perils of being stateless was masterfully portrayed in the movie "Terminal," in which Tom Hanks played a man who was not wanted by any country, ending up spending 18 years inside Paris Airport.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by all UN member countries except for the US, will become 30 years old later this year. Ratifying states must act in the best interests of the child, which means compliance with child custody and guardianship laws, honoring children's basic rights, including the right to life, to their own name, and identity, to be raised by their parents within a family or cultural grouping, and to have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated. These rights are obviously in greater jeopardy in the case of child refugees. One key cause for having so many stateless children is the fact than women do not possess the same citizenship and other rights as men.
Psychological impacts on child and adult refugees are not limited to the pre-migration period, as the migration itself, and re-settlement in the post-migration period are also serious stress factors. Occasionally, children are so impacted by loss of hope that they lose consciousness and may even become comatose, with no apparent medical cause.
People become de-sensitized to the plight of refugees when they are called "illegal immigrants." In fact, seeking refuge from war, violence, and other causes of trauma is legal worldwide. A key observation is that refugees must be empowered to become participants and partners, rather than be mere subjects (e.g., get them involved in taking photos, rather than becoming subjects of other people's photos). As observed by the founder of Chobani (a highly successful yogurt company), himself an immigrant, the moment a dislocated person gets a job, s/he ceases to be a refugee.
Far from being vulnerable and delicate individuals, immigrants are less likely to suffer chronic disease or premature death for the leading causes of death. This surprising outcome is known as the Immigrant Paradox. And the effect is not limited to health. Recent immigrants tend to outperform more-established immigrants and non-immigrants on education, conduct, and crime-related outcomes, despite the barriers they face to successful social integration.
Dr. Kia-Keating's talk is related to this year's "UCSB Reads" selection, Thi Bui's memoir entitled The Best We Could Do, which portrays her family's history in Vietnam and her parent's escape to the US. The book will be the subject of many campus-wide discussions, culminating in a public lecture by the author on April 25, 2019.
[In the margins: These photos include a panoramic view of the 8th-floor Pacific View Room, views from the room's windows, and the glass enclosure where an up-to-date scale-model of the entire campus is kept.]

2019/01/21 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Martin Luther King Day! Last night's 'super blood wolf moon' lunar eclipse Some of the honorees on the Forbes list of America's Top 50 Women in Tech (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Martin Luther King Day! (See item 2 below) [Center] Last night's "super blood wolf moon" lunar eclipse, with totality from 8:41 to 9:44 PM, PST. This total lunar eclipse will be the last ofits kind until 2033. [Right] Forbes issues list of America's Top 50 Women in Tech.
(2) Dr. King's message of love, peace, unity, and respect must be repeated more than ever, in order to counteract the hate, conflict, division, and discourtesy practiced by the current US administration. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
[P.S.: This weekend, we also marked two ominous occasions: Entering the third year of Trump's presidency and the second month of the US government shutdown.]
(3) Holland plans to teach the basics of AI to its citizens: The first phase of the ambitious plan entails educating 1% of the population (~ 55,000 people). [While we are occupied by government shutdown, building a wall, and bringing coal jobs back, other countries are preparing for the second half of the 21st century!]
(4) Women's rights: The right to enter a shrine in South India has sparked an intense national battle over women's rights. Two women who entered the forbidden Hindu Temple are now in hiding for fear of their lives.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Oil pipeline blast in Mexico kills 66.
- Raising taxes on the super-rich has broad support: 71/60/45% among Democrats/independents/Republicans.
- On Trump and lies: As the saying goes, people living in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones. [Tweets]
- Trump always hires the best, the smartest, people: Then, they all turn dumb, lowlife, or crazy! [Cartoon]
- Comedian recalls when he was introduced to God and Jesus as a 4-year-old. [English; Persian subtitles]
- The average American lives in 11 different residences over a lifetime (mine is 18). [From an Allstate TV ad]
(6) Lectures on Iran at UCLA next week: Dr. Hashem Pesaran (USC Distinguished-Chair Economics Professor) will speak on "US Sanctions: Unfulfilled Expectations and Challenges Facing the Iranian Economy" (Sunday, January 27, 4:00 PM, Dodd Hall 121, in Persian; Monday, January 28, 4:00 PM, Kaplan 365, in English). [Flyer]
(7) On lies and politics: I tried to find the original wording of this Persian translation of a Hana Arendt quote but did not succeed: When a society faces organized lying, telling the truth turns into a political act. The truth-teller, even if not motivated politically, becomes a political activist. Under these conditions, you cannot set politics aside and go your own way: You must either join the ministry of deception or become a dissident.

2019/01/19 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Women's March Santa Barbara participants pass in front of the SB Courthouse on Anacapa Street Map of Vanak, Tehran, Iran, around 50 years ago, constructed from memory Selfie taken on my way back from Women's March Santa Barbara (1) Images of the day: [Left] Women's March Santa Barbara participants pass in front of the SB Courthouse on Anacapa Street. [Center] Map of Vanak, Tehran, Iran, around 50 years ago, constructed from memory (see the personal history under the last item below). [Right] On my way back from Women's March Santa Barbara, with my T-shirt message: "Fem.i.nism (fem-uh-niz-uhm), The radical notion that women are people."
(2) Women's March Santa Barbara: The program began at De La Guerra Plaza with song and dance performances, followed by a Chumash prayer and speeches by local politicians and community leaders. It then continued by marching westward on State Street, returning via Anacapa [Photos] [World Dance performing to the global women's anthem "Break the Chains"] [March video 1] [March video 2] [March video 3].
(3) Trouble among women marchers: Allegations of anti-semitism against the national organization coordinating the marches nationwide may have hampered participation this year. Santa Barbara's organizers reiterated their commitment to diversity and full equality during a TV appearance yesterday, as they claimed independence from the national organization.
(4) Vanak, Tehran, Iran (a personal history; see the map above): Vanak is a neighborhood in North Tehran, where my family lived from 1958 to 1991. A well-known traffic circle, near major thoroughfares in the capital city, and a tree-lined street in the area are named "Vanak." The neighborhood's name comes from a village that still existed in the 1980s; the name "Vanak" means "small (ash) tree."
At the time we lived there, major landmarks in Vanak included Iran Plan & Budget Organization's Factory #5, where my dad worked as an engineer for many years, a historic Armenian village/fort surrounded by walls, and, later on, the Girls' College (built on an abandoned cemetery and land acquired from private owners) and later renamed Farah Pahlavi University and, after the Islamic Revolution, Alzahra University. The neighborhood now boasts a major Armenian Sports Club (Ararat) and is home to high-rise residential and commercial buildings. Hotel Vanak, an amusement park, named "Fun Faar" (derived from the English "Fun Fair"), and a miniature golf course used to occupy three of Vanak Circle's corners, with the high-rise Sheraton Hotel not far away.
We lived at two locations in Vanak, both alongside the extension of Vanak Avenue, where it veered to the north upon passing the Factory Circle and its bus stop.
The first location, was a rented 5-room apartment in Alizadeh Building, named after the owner. We lived at one end of the building, on the second floor. The building's first floor on the street side was taken up by businesses, including a small grocery store, or baghghaali, a metal-working shop (which made doors, windows, and fences, and treated us to banging, welding, and grinding sounds all day long), and a workshop/mini-factory that my dad occupied to make metal furniture, including folding beds that were in high demand. The building had a large garden on its back side, which was out of bounds to us, except when the owner's rep, who occupied a first-floor unit, let us in to use the algae-covered, green-water pool.
The second location was at a 1.5-story building that my dad designed and built to house his workshop/factory and a residential quarter for the family. There were also a couple of street-front shops, which he planned to use as the factory's offices and, perhaps, rent out to other businesses. Soon he closed his factory and the large hall where metal furniture pieces were to be built became our over-size living room. The backyard had flower beds and trees along the sides and a swimming pool in the middle, which for some reason was rarely filled with water. Most of the family photos we have from those days show an empty swimming pool. My dad had a deep well dug in one corner of the yard for our water supply and built a simple structure on the far end of the yard, which held a largish warehouse on one side and toilet/shower facilities on the other. Later remodeling added a bathroom at the main part of the house, sparing us from having to walk through rain and snow, shovel in hand, for bathroom visits!
My parents sold the latter house dirt-cheap when they immigrated to the US to join their children. Later, the building was demolished to accommodate a street-widening project, which gobbled up much of the land. The new owner erected a multi-story building on the back side of the lot to take the greatest advantage of the now-more-valuable land. I have seen recent photos of the area where our house once stood, which is totally unrecognizable to me.
P.S.: Whenever Queen Farah came to visit the university in Vanak, or, less frequently, when the Shah visited, the potholes on the main road were filled, dirt roads in the area were sprinkled with water, vegetation was trimmed (and sometimes new flower bushes planted), and the crumbling walls on both sides of the road were painted over. Everything went back to its normal crummy state in a few days!

2019/01/18 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fake issue of <i>The Washington Post</i>, recently distributed in the DC area Super-Moon total lunar eclipse Map of Iran, comparing its provinces to other world countries in terms of area (1) Interesting images: [Left] Fake issue of The Washington Post, recently distributed in the DC area. [Center] Super-Moon lunar eclipse coming on Sunday 1/20, beginning at 10:34 PM EST: Super-Moon is when the Moon is closest to Earth and thus appears larger. The event will last for 3.5 hours, giving us 63 minutes of totality. [Right] It's a big country: Map of Iran, comparing its provinces to other world countries in terms of area.
(2) Beauty isn't the only thing that's in the eye of the beholder: Perceptions vary. It's possible for the same object to be perceived as a sphere by one person and as a cube by another.
(3) History in pictures: This newspaper clipping shows Donald Trump in Tehran, ca. 1978, accompanied by actors Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. Trump's plans to build a casino on Iran's Caspian coast were scrapped due to political unrest preceding the Islamic Revolution.
[Correction: The photo in the clipping was actually taken in Africa and the rest of the story is likely fake.]
(4) [Political humor] Breaking news: Democrats have agreed to funding the wall to reopen the government, on the condition that Trump stays on the other side of the wall!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump fired Comey and Flynn on advice from Kushner, who told him it will help end the Russia probe.
- Persian music: A tender poem in praise of mother, recited by singer/poet Homay. [8-minute video]
- Those were the days: Tehran, Iran, ca. 1956. [9-minute video]
- A UK immigration officer placed his wife's name on a terror watch list after she traveled to Pakistan.
(6) Where is ardent Trump supporter Devin Nunes? After a period of disappearance, he is back in the news, because Robert Mueller and Manhattan federal prosecutors are looking into a breakfast meeting he attended, along with Michael Flynn and a number of foreign officials in connection with Trump's inaugural celebrations.
(7) Connections coming to light: A computer tech specialist working for Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Liberty University was paid by Trump to manipulate on-line polls in his favor.
(8) Four US soldiers killed in Syria by the supposedly-defeated ISIS: Will there be endless investigations of this incident, as there were for the four Americans who died in Benghazi, Libya?
(9) Temporary river: I took this photo at Goleta's Coal Oil Point, where the Devereux Slough connects to the ocean when it's full. Water is seen flowing into the ocean at low tide. In this 2.5-minute video, water is seen flowing into the ocean at low tide. My narration is barely audible over the sounds of the wind and raging water.

2019/01/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dangers of vehicles driving on UCSB campus walkways, Photo 1 Colorful patterns, natural and artificial (photo montage) Dangers of vehicles driving on UCSB campus walkways, Photo 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Poor planning endangers safety at UCSB: The new Bioengineering Building on our campus (like several older buildings) does not have any road access, so the only way to get to the parking and deliveries area behind it is via driving a significant distance on a busy walkway. Yesterday, Wednesday 1/16, as I was walking back to my office around 1:00 PM, I observed a large delivery truck drive on the walkway to the east of the Bioengineering Building to get to the delivery area on its north side; several other cars were parked in that lot, which must have gotten there by driving on the same busy walkway. How did this multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art project get approved without mitigating its vehicle access problem? [Center] Photo montage: Colorful patterns, natural and artificial.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Senior Pentagon personnel are nervous about Trump's unpredictability and his politicization of the military.
- Pelosi told Trump he could deliver the State-of-The-Union address in writing: Here's a leaked draft copy.
- An apparently record-breaking ice disk measuring 300 feet in diameter floats on a Maine river in the US.
- Southern Californians are alarmed that they have not been able to drive with their sun-roofs open for 3 days!
- The Republican Party of the 21st-century America: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. [Image]
- Some English terms for money. [Image]
- Persian poetry: Mr. Haloo's humorous poem about a just-married couple and their first night together.
- Old-time Iranian singer Hooshmand Aghili gets emotional as he is honored by his peers.
- The story behind Costco's Kirkland brand, which has helped it increase profits as other retailers struggle.
(3) An embarrassment of riches: In a third talk by a CS neuroscience faculty candidate in as many days, Hannah Choi (post-doc at U. Washington; PhD in applied math from Northwestern) spoke today under the title "Bridging Structure, Dynamics, and Computation in Brain Networks." Because the talk overlapped with another talk that was of greater interest to me, I did not attend. This post will serve as a reminder for me to pursue the subject later. [Dr. Hannah Choi's Web page]
(4) "Zero-Carbon Cloud: Reducing the Cloud's Growing Carbon Footprint and Enabling High-Renewable Power Grid": This was the title of a talk this afternoon by Dr. Andrew Chien (U. Chicago), sponsored by UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. Data centers and other cloud infrastructure are energy-intensive and, despite the efforts expended and claims made (e.g., by Google), we are a long way from achieving zero-emission powering of the cloud. In connection with the goal of a zero-carb cloud, Dr. Chien discussed a number of computing research challenges, including resource prediction, adaptive workload distribution, new distributed protocols, and novel business models.
(5) Film screening at UCSB's Pollock Theater: As part of the "Beatles Revolutions" series, the 1964 film "A Hard Day's Night" was screened tonight, followed by a discussion with journalist Ivor Davis, who accompanied the Beatles on their 5-week North-American tour. The 1964 tour was kicked off with an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Director Richard Lester's semi-documentary style captures the Beatlemania of 1964 and the shear fun the Fab Four had with their quick rise to fame. In the discussion, moderated by David Novak (UCSB Professor of Music), Davis recounted his first-hand experiences during the tour, in which music and lyrics were drowned out by screams from young fans. One of those screaming/weeping girls happened to be sitting in Pollock theater's front row tonight. The music and sound quality are first-rate, so, if you have not seen the film in a theater, consider doing so at the first opportunity.

2019/01/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'Time' magazine's cover photo, issue of January 21, 2019: The art of the duel 'New Yorker' cartoon of the day: 'Wow, I wonder what the losing team got' The highly over-rated actress Meryl Streep impersonates the highly over-rated dealmaker Donald Trump! (1) Trump images of the day: [Left] Time magazine's cover photo, issue of January 21, 2019: The art of the duel. [Center] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "Wow, I wonder what the losing team got." [Right] The highly over-rated actress Meryl Streep impersonates the highly over-rated dealmaker Donald Trump!
(2) One of the "Girls of Revolution Street," who stood against Iran's mandatory hijab laws by removing their headscarves in public, writes about her ordeal at Iranian stone-age courts in cases of domestic abuse and freedom of speech. A truly heartbreaking story! [Facebook post, in Persian]
(3) The liberalization of America: More people self-identify as liberal (once considered a negative term) than ever before. In a quarter of century, the fraction of Americans who support gay marriage and legalization of pot has grown from about 1/4 to 2/3.
(4) Conservatives insist that the US has the best healthcare system in the world, yet Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has chosen to undergo surgery in Canada, a country with awful, socialized, universal healthcare! Paul and others like him remind me of Iranian mullahs, who travel abroad for even routine medical care, while chanting the slogan of self-sufficiency for mere mortals.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- More than a decade after masterminding the USS Cole attack, a key Al-Qaeda operative is dead.
- The clueless, heartless, tactless, classless, amoral POTUS does it again! [Tweets]
- Newspaper censures woman's obituary that blamed Trump for contributing to her death. [From Newsweek]
- UCLA gymnast's delightful perfect-10 floor routine, channeling Tina Turner and Michael Jackson, goes viral.
(6) World Music Series noon concert: Very few people were in attendance at today's event, Klezmer and Balkan Music with Kalinka. Perhaps the rain made people think that the outdoor performance would be cancelled, whereas it was moved indoors. One of the band members joked that it felt like an academic conference, with a 1:1 ratio of panelists to audience members! [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]
(7) "Perceptual Engineering": This was the title of a talk by UCSB CS faculty candidate Misha Sra this afternoon. Dr. Sra (PhD, MIT, 2018) is a Research Affiliate at MIT's Media Lab.
Our bodies interact with the physical world in rich and elaborate ways, whereas digital interactions are far more limited. Dr. Sra's Research raises computing devices from external systems that require deliberate usage to those that are true extensions of us.
In Dr. Sra's view, using the entire body for input and output allows for implicit and natural interactions. By building devices and immersive systems (such as the one for virtual scuba diving that replicates the actions and sensations of a human under water, while operating on a dry platform), Dr. Sra aims to modify a user's sense of space, place, body, balance, and orientation and manipulate his/her visual attention, so as to assist or guide the interactive experience in an effortless way and without explicit user input. [Images]
One of Dr. Sra's projects about counteracting motion sickness is described in this 11-minute TEDx talk.

2019/01/15 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Vulnerability of US entry points to terrorists infilteration A few memes about the struggles of Iranian women to regain their rights Trump treats Clemson's championship football team to food from Wendy's, McDonald's, and Burger King (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Vulnerability of US entry points to terrorists infilteration. [Center] A few memes about the struggles of Iranian women: Women's resistance to mandatory hijab laws and other manifestations of misogyny in social and judicial settings is one of the bright spots in the fight for freedom in Iran. [Right] Trump treats Clemson's championship football team to food from Wendy's, McDonald's, and Burger King: Next, he'll cut NASA's budget and send them Space-Set Lego Blocks from a local toy store's clearance section.
(2) Unlikely Iranian spies in Southern California: "Within the span of a year—from the summer of 2017 to the spring of 2018—authorities say the men crisscrossed Orange County and the United States, videotaping participants at MEK rallies in New York and Washington, D.C., and photographing Jewish centers in Chicago."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Increasingly isolated, Trump quotes Pat Buchanan and claims most Americans support his border wall.
- Trump's "Amazon Washington Post" should be recipropcated with "Trump Organization White House."
- Rep. Steve King removed from committee posts in wake of racist and White-Supremacist comments.
- Veterans, the primary victims of higher-education scams, oppose DeVos's proposed deregulation.
- Saudi teen, who left her country to escape abuse and seek freedom, granted refugee status by Canada.
- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran since 2016, starts hunger strike in a bid to get medical attention.
- Tiny cotton plants have sprouted as a result of a biology experiment by the Chinese lunar lander.
- Hubble Space Telescope's life is expected to come to an end by the mid-2020s.
- U. California warns students/faculty against using messaging apps and social media while visiting China.
- Actress Carol Channing, of the "Hello, Dolly!" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" fame, dead at 97.
(4) Shades of last year: Evacuation orders are in place around Santa Barbara over the expectation of several days of rain and the possibility of flash floods and mud/debris flows. They took effect at 10 AM on Tuesday 1/15 for areas below the Sherpa, Whittier, and Thomas fire burn areas.
(5) "Bridging the Spatiotemporal Neural Dynamics of Recurrent Processes in the Brain with Deep Hierarchical Convolutional Neural Network Models": This mouthful of a title belonged to a CS faculty candidate talk this afternoon at UCSB. The speaker, Dr. Yalda Mohsenzadeh, is a postdoc at MIT and received her graduate degrees from Sharif University of Technology (MS, 2009) and Amirkabir University (PhD, 2014), both in Tehran. Her work relies on a combination of EEG/MEG, which provide good temporal resolution, and fMRI, which has good spatial resolution, in an effort to arrive at mm and msec resolutions for studying brain activity. The talk consisted of three complementary parts, followed by a description of the speaker's future research plans. First, a novel method for characterizing the interplay of feedforward and feedback mechanisms along the human ventral visual stream, which suggests that recurrent artificial neural networks can better explain the neural data in challenging visual tasks, was presented. Second, Dr. Mohsenzadeh showed how some visual events are privileged by perceptual processing for potential successful memory encoding, offering a new way of characterizing the spatiotemporal neural signature of visual memorability in the human brain. Third, via a novel method to examine what an artificial deep neural network has learned, Dr. Mohsenzadeh showed how biological and artificial networks share many more similarities than previously believed. [A few slides]
(6) Film screening at UCSB's Pollock Theater: "Nadie" (a 2017 documentary, whose title means "Nobody") tells the story of love and deception in the Cuban revolution, seen through the eyes of a man who was initially mesmerized by its possibilities. Rafael Alcides, who talks for much of the film, was once a celebrated writer. Now, a stranger in his own country, a nobody, he tries to salvage his unpublished novels as the ink fades away from their pages. Miguel Coyula's film is a pop-culture collage, combining clips from old movies, photographs, and imaginary conversations, all held together by the magnetic personality of raconteur Rafael Alcides.
The film's screening was followed by a discussion with Miguel Coyola (writer/director/co-producer) and Lynn Cruz (actor/co-producer), moderated by Cristina Venegas (Film & Media Studies, UCSB). Apparently, the director and producers of the film also became nobodies, given the reverence with which Castro is viewed in Cuba and the extreme censorship of all that is critical of him.
Even though the director categorizes his film as a "documentary," much of the imagery is digitally manipulated, making it of a different genre (historical commentary?). Some examples of such manipulations were shown during the Q&A period. [Some images]

2019/01/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Right before disaster strikes: Bat about to hit chin Right before disaster strikes: When you gotta go Right before disaster strikes: Falling in the pool Right before disaster strikes: Cargo about to go Right before disaster strikes: Elephant's toy car Right before disaster strikes: Knocking over a vase (1) Unfortunate events: [Top left] Bat about to hit chin. [Top center] When you gotta go. [Top right] Falling in the pool. [Bottom left] Cargo about to go. [Bottom center] Elephant's toy car. [Bottom right] Museum oops!
(2) Perfect retort to the Trump tweet slamming FBI and Comey: "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing." ~ Sarah Huckabee Sanders' tweet of November 3, 2016
(3) An emerging pattern: The Saudi government may have rescued a Saudi man awaiting trial for rape in Canada. They had done this for an accused murderer in Oregon.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Death toll of massive US winter storm, from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic, stands at 7 and rising.
- Trump's anti-FBI tweet and Comey's reply: "I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made." ~ FDR
- Racism rewarded: Megyn Kelly is out at NBC but will be given the full amount of her $69 million contract.
- Trump risks financial disaster for America, says the President of a country whose economy is in tatters!
- James Watson of the DNA double-helix fame has been stripped of his honors over racist comments.
- Highly creative Olympics ice-dancing: Tango with a Chair. [2-minute video]
- Azeri music: A wonderful performance of "Sari Galin" by a group of school children. [5-minute video]
- Trevor Noah's 8-minute stand-up comedy routine about his racial identity and racism in South Africa.
- Traditional Persian music: Mastan Ensemble performs. [4-minute video]
- Jim Carrey impersonating 12 famous people in 1992. [Photos]
- Ancient Irish "healing soil" contains bacteria that halt the growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
(5) Trump responds to reports of chaos in the WH by tweeting that he is home alone: Tweeter users consider this a sign of isolation, rather than reassuring.
(6) World's top 10 most-educated countries [educated fraction rounded to the nearest percent]: Canada 56, Japan 51, Israel 50, Korea 47, UK 46, USA 46, Australia 44, Finland 44, Norway 43, Luxembourg 43.

2019/01/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Punishment by lashing in the Islamic Republic of Iran (cartoon by Touka Neyestani) This wall at UCSB Library used to be covered with a shelf that held new books: Another casualty of the digital revolution! Cartoon: Lady Liberty replaced by Liberty Wall (1) Troubling sights: [Left] Punishment by lashing in the Islamic Republic of Iran (cartoon by Touka Neyestani). [Center] This wall at UCSB Library used to be covered with a shelf that held new books: It was my favorite spot to spend some time before or between meetings, to discover new books outside my areas of expertise. Another casualty of the digital revolution! [Right] Lady Liberty being replaced by Liberty Wall.
(2) The number 33 is very special (part of birthday message to my son, who turns 33 today): It is the product of the primes 3 and 11, thus being a semiprime. The smallest run of 3 consecutive semiprime integers begins with 33 (the next run is 85, 86, 87). Coincidentally, 11 is the binary representation of 3. It is the sum of the first four positive factorials. It is a master number, along with 11 and 22. It is the smallest odd number n such that n + x! isn't a prime for any x. It is the smallest positive integer yet to be represented as a^3+b^3+c^3. Al-Ghazali claimed that dwellers of Heaven will forever exist in a state of being 33.
(3) "Back to the Future: The Return of US Economic Sanctions and Iran's Response" [With thanks to Dr. Bavafa for sending me his slides and submitting several clarifications]:
This was the title of today's Persian lecture at UCLA's Dodd Hall, Room 121, which will repeat tomorrow in English at Bunche Hall, Room 10383, as part of the Iranian Studies Outreach Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. The speaker, Dr. Reza Bavafa, is an adjunct professor at USC's Marshall School of Business. Dr. Bavafa teaches courses in economics and business strategy and has had 25 years of executive management experience with AT&T and IBM.
Dr. Kazem Alamdari introduced the speaker and moderated the discussion that followed the lecture, in lieu of the lecture series' coordinator, Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, who is abroad on a conference trip.
Dr. Bavafa began with a disclaimer: Given that the new Trump administration sanctions on Iran are only a tad over two months old, their effects are not yet known in full, so we must extrapolate from previous sanctions regimes, and employ economic models, to predict their effects. Another disclaimer, that Dr. Bavafa mentioned during the talk and Q&A period, is that he is not versed to speak about the political and psychological impacts of sanctions, so his focus is on economic effects and on the effectiveness of sanctions in achieving their stated goals. Many sanctions and responses to them are politically motivated in order to score points with the base at source and/or target countries. There are also psychological impacts on both sides, which are outside the scope of this talk.
Dr. Bavafa indicated that his talk covers five points: Defining economic sanctions, history of sanctions against Iran, reinstatement of sanctions in November 2018, impact of sanctions, and Iran's potential response.
US sanctions apply to "US Persons," that is, US citizens and permanent residents, no matter where they live, anyone physically present in the US, and US entities such as corporations. Secondary sanctions apply to entities with economic ties to both the US and Iran, thus potentially capable of circumventing the sanctions via indirect deals. Although there are counterexamples, generally speaking, economic sanctions have been less than successful in achieving their goals.
Considering a two-dimensional space characterized by a country's degree of dependence on imports (high or low) and it having or not having strategic exports as a crude version (that focuses only on two of the more prominent parameters) of a model used in the literature on this topic, one can distinguish four quadrants. Most vulnerable to sanctions are counties with high degrees of dependence on imports and with no strategic exports (Liberia). Countries with little dependence on imports are usually not affected by sanctions (North Korea, with no strategic exports, and China, with a great deal of exports). Iran falls in the fourth quadrant, because it is highly dependent on imports, but also has oil as a strategic export.
The case of Iran is rather puzzling. The 3-decade sanctions spanning 1979-2010, resulting from the hostage crisis, though economically devastating, had more limited effects on changing Iran's behavior than the broadly-supported and deep 2012-2015 sanctions arising from the nuclear program, which eventually brought Iran to the negotiating table and led to the JCPOA (recently overturned by the Trump administration, while still considered valid by the Europeans, China, and Russia).
The reinstated sanctions are expected to be somewhat less effective than those in 2012-2015, for a variety of reasons, including the absence of "carrot" to complement the "stick." First, Iran is allowed to sell oil to certain countries that would be greatly inconvenienced if Iran's oil were not available to them. Second, the sanctions are unilateral and not supported by US partners in the nuclear deal. Third, reduction in both the unemployment rate and of inflation, from 30% to around 10% (although the figure shot up to 35% upon declaration of the new sanctions), anti-corruption measures, and in-progress banking reforms, including control of money-laundering, may spur foreign investments.
The previous round of sanctions created problems for the country in terms of an increase in poverty levels, especially in provinces with smaller urban populations, although in terms of inequality, Iran is surprisingly in better shape than the US. The bottom line is that sanctions affected villages much more severely than cities.
Demonstrations against rampant inflation in Iranian cities are signs of trouble to come. Iran was expected to have a 4% growth this year, which was downgraded to -1.6% upon the mere announcement of the new sanctions (a reduction of 5.6%). Another 4% decrease in growth is projected for next year.
In conclusion, the reinstated US sanctions are not expected to be super-effective, thus giving Iran some flexibility in how it responds to them. The Trump administration has stated that regime change is not a goal of the reinstated sanctions. In fact, the globally unpopular sanctions may serve to strengthen the Iranian regime, as people rally around the leadership. Conservatives in both the US and Iran seem to be the main beneficiaries of the sanctions.
The Facebook version of this post also includes photos and a Persian summary. [The speaker's slides]

2019/01/12 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
World's largest neuromorphic computer, built at U. Manchester Researchers are replicating honeybee's tiny brain, containing about 1 million neurons, to improve drone navigation Tech goes to Broadway: The latest stage King Kong (1) Science and technology: [Left] World's largest neuromorphic computer: Built at U. Manchester, the $20M machine contains 1M processor cores and mimics the brain's massive parallelism. Its design concept will be scaled up in future to model up to 1B neurons. [Center] Beeline navigation: Researchers are replicating honeybee's tiny brain, containing about 1 million neurons, to improve drone navigation. (Credit: Cover of Prism magazine, issue of December 2018) [Right] Tech goes to Broadway: The latest stage King Kong is a 2000-pound, 20-foot-tall blending of art and technology, controlled by on-board hydraulics and a team of puppeteers. Despite this marvel of animatronics, the Broadway version of "King Kong" has received poor reviews.
(2) How do evangelical Christians reconcile their love and support for Israel with their belief that all Jews will go to hell unless they convert to Christianity?
(3) Persian music: This nostalgic song, entitled "Grandma's House," is recognizable by next-generation Iranians (the generation after me) as the theme song of a children's TV program.
(4) Persian music: My friend Koorosh (Kory) Yazdani sings his composition "Mi-Khaahamat" ("I Desire You"), based on a poem by another friend, Partow Nooriala. [5-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cost to GDP of the current government shutdown will likely exceed Trump's wall funding demand. [Chart]
- Federal agencies affected by the current partial government shutdown (9 out of 15). [Chart]
- Virginia Federal Appeals Court: Politicians who block citizens on social media violate First Amendment.
- A detailed history of Donald Trump's connections to the mob, both in the US and in Russia.
- Changing our perception of beauty: Photographing women from 60 different countries. [Pictorial]
- Official Queen video of "Bohemian Rhapsody" (inspired a new movie by the same name). Its live version.
(6) Bad news: Catastrophic collisions are coming to our Milky Way galaxy. Good news: The first collision is expected in about 2 billion years. [CNN story]
(7) The Trump administration is breaking records left and right: On the heels of the longest government shutdown in history, we now have an agency head resigning before he is confirmed by Congress.
(8) Final thought for the day: Trump was essentially forced to be hostile to the press and his political opponents. With so many skeletons in his closet, he couldn't defend himself in any other way but via preemptively declaring his critics spiteful and biased.

2019/01/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Changes by age group in the composition of the US House in the 2018 midterm elections China's Lunar Rover exploring the far side of the moon Trump's tax plan of 1999: A one-time 14.25% net-worth tax to eliminate the national debt (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Changes by age group in the composition of the US House in the 2018 midterm elections: Significant increases in the number of Gen-Xers and Millennials. [Center] China's rover exploring the far side of the moon (More photos). [Right] Trump's tax plan of 1999: A one-time 14.25% net-worth tax to eliminate the national debt. His economic plan evolved from "soak the rich" to "screw the poor" in two decades!
(2) The US Supreme Court will not intervene in the legal battle between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and an unknown foreign corporation fighting his grand-jury subpoena.
(3) Predatory artists: We must remember that each act of support or fandom, insignificant as it may seem in the grand scheme of things, serves to enable the despicable behavior.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Fiat-Chrysler to pay $800 million to settle DoJ, EPA, and California lawsuits over false emissions readings.
- CA's commitment to getting all of its electricity from green sources by 2045 is spreading to other states.
- At least two dozen US electric utilities are believed to have been compromised by Russian hackers.
- Hurricane-stricken town in the Florida Panhandle is now dealing with "Hurricane Government Shutdown."
- American co-presidents: Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. [Photos]
- Amazon's Jeff Bezos and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, both in the middle of divorces, are dating.
(5) Disaster relief (humor): In a stunning development, FEMA has decided to allocate funds to Trump's wall to get him off people's nerves, given that no hurricane, flood, or wildfire has caused this much trauma!
(6) It's unclear whether volunteers can clean up the mess at Southern California's Joshua Tree National Park, left because of government shutdown. But it's heart-warming that they are trying.
(7) Our very helpful government has advised fed workers without paychecks to be creative: Hold garage sales, baby-sit, walk a neighbor's dog, ...; do these people even know how much a baby-sitter or a dog-walker earns?
(8) Seeing old-time friends: Ten of my college classmates from 50+ years ago and their families got together in Tehran and were kind enough to include me in their merriment via FaceTime.
(9) Mike Pompeo's abhorrent Cairo speech: In his Middle East policy statement, he said not one word about the murderous dictators in the region but took several shots at former President Obama! [Full text]

2019/01/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the mudflow in Santa Barbara's Montecito area Beautiful sunset shots in Goleta, California, from January 9, 2015 Khosro Harandi, former chess champion and a staff member at Iran's Sharif University of Technology, has passed away at 68 (1) Some remembrances: [Left] Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the mudflow in Santa Barbara's Montecito area. The death toll was 21, with 28 others injured. Wikipedia has an article about the disaster, which was a consequence of Thomas Fire in late 2017. [Center] Beautiful sunset shots in Goleta, California, from January 9, 2015. [Right] Khosro Harandi, former Iranian chess champion and a staff member at Iran's Sharif University of Technology, has passed away at 68. RIP!
(2) Economic insecurities, exposed by the current government shutdown: In the world's richest country, 78% of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. This makes the relatively low unemployment rate rather irrelevant.
(3) Homophobia, like racism and anti-Semitism, is rearing its ugly head under Trump: Evangelical group wants gays removed from an anti-lynching bill passed last month by the US Senate.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump plans to order FEMA to stop helping fire-ravaged California: Childish rage to punish a blue state!
- Saudi power couple, a stand-up comic and a women's-rights activist, have disappeared from the scene.
- Mass transit, in the true sense of the term: Bangladesh railway. [2-minute video]
- A capsule history of the Persian language and its influence on other languages. [2-minute video]
- The New Yorker's glowing review of the comedy "Pig," to be shown at NY's upcoming Iranian Film Festival.
- Wonderful 3D design app: Of course, nothing is as easy as it appears in demos, but I'm still impressed.
- A joke for my Persian-speaking readerss: It uses an utterly untranslatable play on words. [Tweet]
- Persian music: A wonderful rendition of the old song "Mey-Zadeh Shab." [4-minute video]
(5) Heard on the radio while driving (didn't catch the attribution): Usually, the president uses an Oval-Office address to calm a frightened public. This must be the first time a president has used it to frighten a calm public!
(6) On declaring national emergency: Having painted himself into a corner with no way to declare victory upon ending the government shutdown, Trump is increasingly likely to see a declaration of national emergency as the only way to appease his base and seem strong to his nut-job right-wing bosses in the media.
(7) Impact of government shutdown on science and technology: Researchers at federal agencies, including Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and US Geological Survey, are banned from any form of work activity, including opening of e-mails, during the current government shutdown.

2019/01/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Moon landing's 50th anniversary coming up: Washington Post's front page Moon landing's 50th anniversary coming up: Ticker-tape parade in NYC Moon landing's 50th anniversary coming up: Man walking on the moon (1) Moon landing's 50th anniversary coming up: Astronauts Neil Armstrong (right), Michael Collins (Center), and Buzz Aldrin (left) received a ticker-tape parade in NYC upon returning from the moon in July 1969.
(2) Will Iran start a preemptive war? Rather likely, considering this statement from the Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander: "Until now the strategy of the Islamic Republic has been defensive. But it seems that from now on we must be ready to take the offensive and go after the enemy."
(3) Iranian journalist lashed in public: Poet, satirist, and Telegram-channel administrator Mohammad-Hossein Sodagar received 74 lashes after his conviction for "disseminating false information."
(4) After years of denial/hedging, Iran publicly admits to having conducted regular talks with the Taliban: Can you guess which of these two men in this photo (credit: Iranwire) is the Taliban representative?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- According to Andy Borowitz (humorist), Trump's speech on border security is simulcast in English!
- Democrats demand equal time if TV networks devoted time to Trump's prime-time address of yesterday.
- The best news analyses now occur on comedy shows: Seth Meyers' "A Closer Look" feature, in particular.
- No collusion? Paul Manafort fed campaign information to Russian with intelligence ties.
- Singer R. Kelly will likely be the next giant of the entertainment industry to fall due to sexual misconduct.
- On being radical: It is giving bigger tax breaks to the rich that's radical; taxing them more is mainstream!
- US academic institutions are being drained of AI talent by the lure of projects at tech giants.
- The Dunning-Kruger effect (psychology): Educational Facebook post from January 8, 2018.
- Bumper sticker, spotted in Goleta yesterday: "Science Is Not A Conspiracy" [Photo]
- Asian Cup: Iran's national soccer team beat Yemen 5-0. Hoping it does just as well against stronger teams.
(6) Trump administration's lies continue, getting bolder by the day: Six terrorist arrests at the Mexico border is inflated to 4000. That's a factor of ~17 higher than the Iranian saying "counting one crow as 40 crows"!
(7) Trump lies himself and forces others to lie to cover for him: Both Mike Pence and Sarah Huckabee Sanders backed up Trump's lie that 4000 terrorists had been apprehended at our southern border.
(8) Will the wave of new women representatives bring changes to sexual harassment laws? Perhaps not directly, in terms of the effect of additional votes, but certainly indirectly, as a result of men talking and acting differently in the presence of women (e.g., no locker-room talk, where multiple women are present).

2019/01/08 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Andrew Lloyd Webber's memoir 'Unmasked' World's most-beautiful bookshop, located in Buenos Aires, Argentina Cover image of Sally Field's dark memoir 'In Pieces' (1) Reviewing two memoirs from the world of entertainment (see items 2 and 3 below) and sharing a photo of the world's most-beautiful bookshop (a converted old opera house), located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
(2) Book review: Lloyd Webber, Andrew, Unmasked: A Memoir, unabridged audiobook on 13 CDs, read by the author and Derek Perkins, Harper Audio, 2018. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this memoir, Lloyd Webber [b. 1948], composer of some of the most successful musical theaters of all time (such as "The Phantom of the Opera," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Cats," and "Evita"), elaborates on his 5-decade reign over the musical theater world, his creative process, and collaboration with luminaries such as Tim Rice.
Lloyd Webber is by far the most commercially successful composer in history and his company is a major theater operator in London. He is one of only 15 people in the world to have received all four major entertainment honors (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). Let me stop listing the glories at this point and refer you to the Wikipedia article on Lloyd Webber for a complete list of his awards, honors, and professional achievements.
A large number of world-famous celebrities make cameo appearances in the audiobook, which is really the first half of his life's story, ending with the opening performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" in 1986, a show that is still running after more than three decades. Critics of Unmasked have faulted Lloyd Webber for his verbosity and for not pacing his presentation. The length of the book is in part due to including a lot of backstage or making-of details for each of his productions.
Lloyd Webber has a reputation for being a difficult person, but he also has many admirers and defenders. This dichotomy extends to assessing the quality of his music, some praising his melodic gift and success in bridging Broadway and opera, and others characterizing his music as repetitive and overbearing. I am definitely in the first group!
(3) Book review: Field, Sally, In Pieces, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Hachette Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Telling her story for the first time, in her own words and voice, Field, the winner of two Oscars and three Emmy Awards over a long, continuing acting career, writes primarily about a challenging and lonely childhood. The sad, frightened face of a young Sally Field on the cover reflects the book's tone.
Field was apprehensive about telling her life story, being unsure of whether she wanted to share certain events and of her writing chops. Known affectionately as America's Sweetheart, Field reveals aspects of her personality that are anything but sweet. She suffered through self-doubt (for example, she deemed herself not pretty enough for leading roles), even as she carved a successful acting career for herself. Throughout her life, Field has been angry and seemingly incapable of forming relationships, even with her spaced-out mother, until much later in life.
Perhaps, the most significant revelation in the book is Field's long-term sexual abuse as a young girl by her stepfather. The abusive stepfather told a contrived version of his deeds (essentially claiming that it was a one-time thing caused by drunkenness) to Field's mother, and begged for forgiveness. Field told her mother much later that the abuse had gone on for years. The weight of being almost completely ignored as a child may have made Field susceptible to her stepfather's advances. When Field's relationship with her mother improved and they had open talks, the mother asked why she had not been told about the long-term abuse. Field offers an enlightening explanation: Because she was only a child and had no idea how other children lived and whether her stepfather's actions were a normal part of everyone's childhood.
Much of what Field writes in this book, including the sexual abuse and a secret abortion in Mexico at age 17, is news to her three grown sons, from two marriages, and to her siblings. To the people around her and the world at large, Field seemed as totally in control and enjoying her life and career. Maybe the happiest-looking people are hiding the most angst! In Field's case, the craft of acting seems to have been what saved her from consequences of the type of childhood that drowns many people.
Field writes about her relationships with actor Burt Reynolds and singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb, as well as her marriages to Steven Craig and Alan Greisman. Reynolds, in particular, emerges as petty, angry, envious, manipulative, and controlling. Some have criticized Field for bad-mouthing Burt Reynolds (who is dead) and Jimmy Webb (who recalls their love affair differently and claims that he left Field out of his own memoir because he respected her and didn't want her to be hurt). The other side of the coin is that nearly all men who abuse or otherwise hurt women deny the allegations.
Field writes in detail about her acting gigs, including in TV shows such as "Gidget," "Sybil," "The Flying Nun," and "Brothers and Sisters," and film roles in "Norma Rae," "Steel Magnolias," "Smokey and the Bandit," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," to name a few. Even Field herself did not believe that she deserved all the critical acclaim and the awards, and those around her, particularly Reynolds, tended to dismiss her achievements.
Field is taking flack for writing a sob story, portraying quite a few individuals negatively, and not being grateful for her successes. Women, by and large, have received the book warmly and are thankful for Field's courage and contribution to advancing the #MeToo movement.
Field's writing is splendid, but her tone is at times too negative. Perhaps writing this book was her way of dealing with her past and putting to rest her personal demons. As a reader/listener, I felt that Field did not share enough of her fortunes and happy life events and too much of her miseries. In fairness, though, writing a memoir is a highly personal undertaking and one should cut the writer some slack. This ultra-sad book may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you are a Sally Field fan, it is a must for you.

2019/01/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources: Photo 1 Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources: Photo 2 Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources: Photo 3 Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources: Photo 4 Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources: Photo 5 Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources: Photo 6 (1) Continuing with the Iran theme today: Mouthwatering selections of Iranian cuisine from Internet sources.
(2) Good news amid political turmoil: The US Senate has confirmed Kelvin Droegemeier, a respected extreme-weather expert, as the White House's top science and technology adviser.
(3) UK's Government Communications Headquarters has created a competition for 12- and 13-year-old girls, aimed at drawing more women into cybersecurity-related professions.
(4) Ayatollah Yazdi claims that Iran has made 400 years' worth of progress in the last 40 years: Given that all of our presidents are now deemed deviant and traitorous, could you please specify when this immense progress was made? [Question asked in this Persian-language tweet]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump firm on border wall, offers steel option as compromise: If this doesn't work, he'll go to china option!
- Memes of the day: On Trump's wall, government shutdown, women's rights, and authoritarianism. [Memes]
- Golden Globes 2019: Here is CNN's complete list of the winners, organized by categories.
- CBS News taps producer Susan Zirinsky as its first-ever female president.
- Periodic table turns 150: Its genius aided understanding and facilitated discovery of many new elements.
- For history buffs: Thousands of Ottoman-Era photographs have been digitized and made available on-line.
- Twitter user encourages Iranians to take to the streets with their musical instruments to beautify cities.
(6) If building a border wall, which was Trump's promise and priority form Day 1, is such an emergency, why wasn't it funded over the past two years by the Republican House and Senate?
(7) All four living ex-presidents deny they privately told Trump that they support his border wall: Gee, I don't know whether to believe the real-estate developer with multiple bankruptcies in his past, concealed tax returns, thousands of documented/cataloged lies in two years of presidency, and multiple ongoing criminal investigations, or four former presidents who are gaining more respect with the passing of each day!

2019/01/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Historical photos of Iran's cities: Isfahan's 33-Pol Historical photos of Iran's cities: Mashhad Historical photos of Iran's cities: Tehran's Fouzieh Square (1) Historical photos of Iran: [Left] Isfahan's 33-Pol. [Center] Mashhad. [Right] Tehran's Fouzieh Square.
(2) Quote of the day: "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic." ~ President John F. Kennedy
(3) The lies are getting bolder and more bizarre: Trump claims that certain former presidents support his idea of a wall! Not even his closest staffer, Mick Mulvany, can back up his claim.
(4) Saudi women, rejoice! Now, when your husband divorces you, you'll get a text message notifying you of your new status. Aren't you thankful for Crown Prince MBS's reforms?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- If this madness doesn't stop soon, we'll have to worry about immigration out of the US, not into it!
- The alt-reality of Fox News: Trump not sticking to his guns on border wall will leave the GOP demoralized.
- President foul-mouth finds his words, when spoken by someone else, dishonorable and disrespectful.
- Meme of the day: All of a sudden Republicans are sensitive to the use of crass language! [Meme]
- To share or not to share: That is the question! [3-minute video]
- Turkish music: Based on a traditional Iranian folk song. [3-minute video]
- My Saturday walk on Coal Oil Point Beach in Goleta, during last couple of dry hours before 2 days of rain.
(6) Persian poetry: Mostafa Badkoobei is known for his fiery, patriotic poems. In this video, he recites one of his better-known poems, admonishing the country's rulers for abandoning Iranian history and values in favor of a pan-Islamic view that favors Lebanon and Palestine, to the detriment of our fellow countrymen.
(7) Quantum error-correcting codes (QECCs): ECCs are used as a matter of course to protect digital data from corruption. If a 0 accidentally changes to 1 due to a physical defect or logical fault, use of an ECC allows us to restore the bit to its correct value and continue our computation undisturbed. Quantum bits are much more fragile than ordinary bits, so they need ECCs even more, if we are to build reliable quantum computers. Now, in a stunning development, scientists have concluded that the robustness of spacetime may come from some sort of QECC. This development may pave the way for further advances in both quantum computing and quantum gravity research.
(8) Final thought for the day: Government shutdown does not just affect the 800,000 unpaid federal workers. Many millions are impacted by lack of access to National Parks, laxer security and longer lines at airports, and delayed tax processing and refunds, to name just a few.

2019/01/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Historical photos of Iran's old-time music celebrities: Marzieh, Morteza Mahjoubi, Adib Khansari Historical photos of Iran's old-time music celebrities: Toofan, Neli, Sattar, Naser Cheshm-Azar Historical photos of Iran's old-time music celebrities: Pouran, Viguen, Googoosh (1) Historical photos of Iran's old-time music celebrities (named from left to right): [Left] Marzieh, Morteza Mahjoubi, Adib Khansari. [Center] Toofan, Neli, Sattar, Naser Cheshm-Azar. [Right] Pouran, Viguen, Googoosh.
(2) Yes, this is just what our country needs right now: A president who is doing Russia's bidding and a Senate that thinks it is serving Trump, not America! The Congress must express its independent opinion.
(3) Where Trump get his bizarre conspiracy theories: Watch this insightful analysis by Rachel Maddow to find out. "Several of Trump's foreign policy talking points since taking office have appeared to directly parrot propaganda and fake news originally put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin's government."
(4) The US ayatollahs mimic their Iranian counterparts in criticizing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for having danced on a rooftop in college. But they are okay with a private-parts-grabbing president!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Beautiful flowers to brighten your Friday amid grim economic and government-shutdown reports. [Photos]
- CBS's "60 Minutes" to air interview with President Sisi, over strong objection from Egypt's government.
- Larry Roberts, who as a manager at ARPA oversaw the development of Internet's first iteration, dead at 81.
- Seven dead in fiery multi-vehicle Florida crash, including 5 children who were headed to Disney World.
- The Pridrangaviti Lighthouse is precariously perched on a rock pillar in Iceland's Westman Islands. [Photo]
- UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran: Sun. 1/13 (4:00 PM, Dodd 121) and Mon. 1/14 (2:00 PM, Bunche 10838).
(6) Iranian female chess player Sarasadat Khademalsharieh emerges as the overall champion in blitz and lightning chess. Here is the YouTube video of one of her matches.
(7) A new balance of power in Washington: It used to be Donald Trump and his stooge Mitch McConnell, with Paul Ryan largely absent from the scene in recent months. Now, it's Trump and Nancy Pelosi, with McConnell gone into hiding, and Trump is clearly unhappy to cede one-half of the spotlight. [Photos]
(8) Dr. Jedidah Isler: A black woman who pursued a PhD in astrophysics and now wants to help colored people like her overcome obstacles en route to their STEM passions. [Part of NPR's "Brief but Spectacular" series]
(9) [Final thought for the day] Manifesto for a simple life: Eat less, move more. Buy less, make more. Stress less, laugh more. Feel blessed, love more. Find a quiet spot every day and just breathe.

2019/01/03 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map of Isla Vista and UCSB, including Main and West Campus areas (1) Map of UCSB and Isla Vista: I took this photo of a map at the University Center. The main campus is on the right, and Harold Frank Hall (the former Engineering I Building), where the ECE Department and my office are located, is near the right/east edge of the campus. Isla Vista, with its street network, is center-left on the map. UCSB West Campus, on the left/west of the map, holds the Faculty Housing complex, where my home is located. My walking path to the campus goes roughly across the center of the map, about 1 mile within Isla Vista and 1 mile inside the campus. The map is a few years old, so it doesn't show some of the latest additions to the campus, including new student housing along El Colegio and on both sides of Storke Road. The former Devereux School on the left edge of the map is now part of UCSB, as is the area known as North Campus (a former golf course and its surrounding land), located to the north of West Campus, along Storke Road. The map inset shows the relationship of the campus to US 101, Highway 217, and Santa Barbara Airport.
(2) The far side of the moon has never been examined up close: That will change with the announced soft-landing of the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4, which has begun transmitting photos.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- No, Donald, you wouldn't make a good general if you were judged medically unfit to serve in the military.
- Trump disses Mitt Romney for losing in 2012, and hears about it from the husband of an ardent supporter.
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinkes handwritten resignation note ridiculed. [Tweet]
- US stocks slide again, as Apple shares falter: At closing, DJIA was 660 points down.
- Islamic Iran: Isn't it sad that this talented girl has to dance on the street because of lack of opportunities?
- The rock band Metallica donates $1 million to 10 cummunity colleges for trade skill education.
- The Women's March is coming on Sat. 1/19: Santa Barbara's De La Guerra Plaza, beginning at 11:30 AM.
- A few puzzles, from the January-February 2019 issue of IEEE Potentials. [Image]
- Iranian music: A beautiful Azeri love song, performed by old-time singers Aref and Yaghoub Zoroofchi.
(4) Iran's Minister of Communications: "Today, we announce that in the infrastructure for our National Information Network, no American product will be used." [Good for you, sir, but your statement would have been a lot more believable without that McBook in front of you!] [Image]

2019/01/02 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Late-afternoon walk on January 1, 2019: Photo 1 Late-afternoon walk on January 1, 2019: Photo 2 Late-afternoon walk on January 1, 2019: Photo 3 (1) During yesterday's late-afternoon walk, I snapped photos of the very colorful sunset and what might be a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base to the north. A blue patch of the ocean is visible in one photo.
(2) NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flies by the most-distant known object in the Solar System, some 4 billion miles away, and sends back images to Earth, the planet it left 12 years ago.
(3) What an amazing year for women! Yes, there were some setbacks, but the courage shown by women will bear fruit for many years to come. #TimesUp #MeToo [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tonight is Perihelion: Celebrate, and go find an astrophysicist on the street to dance with! [Tweet]
- The US government shutdown begins to impact scientific research in labs and field sites across the world.
- US National Parks suffer from government shutdown, as visitors turn roads into dumps and toilets.
- Science could have seen far greater progress if it had not dismissed women as intellectually inferior.
- Kurdish and Persian music: Samples of performances by Sheno Ensemble. [5-minute video]
- Fondly remembering our former First Couple and their humanity, 2 years after they left the White House.
- Interesting shots taken on a deserted UCSB campus, whose winter 2019 classes will start on Monday 1/07.
- Persian music: Performed at a soccer match (pre-game or half-time) in Tajikistan. [4-minute video]
- Persian music: Beautiful rhythmic piece, performed masterfully on piano/violin/tonbak. [6-minute video]
- Persian music: A spiritual piece, featuring a poem by Mowlavi (Rumi). [3-minute video] [Poem/Lyrics]
(5) Taking credit and blame: The markets have tanked, so Trump doesn't say a word about them. But gas prices have come down, so Trump immediately takes credit. According to GasBuddy, "2019 sets the stage for the first decline in the yearly national average since 2015, but before motorists drive for joy, it may be prudent to remind them that 2019 will still be the second most expensive year to fill up since then."
(6) Mitt Romney, the flip-flopper: First he stood next to Trump at the Trump Hotel and thanked him for his support. Then, he called Trump a con man and much worse during the 2016 campaign. Next, he had an intimate dinner with Trump as a short-list candidate for the job of Secretary of State. When he wasn't chosen, he began criticizing Trump again. Later, he accepted Trump's support gratefully, as he began to run for a Senate seat from Utah. Most recently, he wrote an op ed against Trump a couple of days before beginning his service as a Senator. Which Mitt Romney will show up at the Senate?
(7) What First Amendment? Netflix removes episode of "Patriot Act with Hasan Mihaj" from its service in Saudi Arabia after the Saudis objected to the comedian's comments about the country and MBS in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

2019/01/01 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A very happy new year to everyone! My drawing from memory of my family's residence and its environs, 1952-1955 Welcome to 2019! Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2019 (1) Reigning in the new year: [Left & Right] A very happy new year to everyone! Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2019. An impressive calligraphic rendering of "Happy New Year." [Center] My drawing from memory of my family's 1950s residence and its environs near Tabriz railway station (see item 2 below).
(2) Some memories from about 65 years ago: My family (dad, mom, and sister Behnaz) lived in Tabriz, Iran, for about 3 years (1952-1955). My father worked as an engineer with the National Railroad Organization and, after a couple of years in Bandar Shah on the Caspian shore and a short stint in Tehran, was reassigned to Tabriz. In those days, the Tehran-Tabriz train track had not yet been completed, so we took the train (which was of course complimentary for us) to Mianeh and rode a bus from Mianeh to Tabriz.
The railway station and the Russian-standard track that led from it to the northern border town of Julfa were leftover relics from the Russian occupation of the 1910s. We lived very close to the majestic railway station, in a government-owned house, with a nice yard in front of it. There were other houses around us, a dirt soccer field nearby, and an elementary school just beyond the field (see the diagram I have drawn from memory).
I was 5.5 years old when I started first grade and attended that school until third grade. The school principal was reluctant to admit me at first, given my age, but agreed to give me a chance after administering a test. I walked to school through the soccer field daily, at times stopping to watch the youth playing or practicing there. On occasion, I spent time at the fruit and vegetables patch across the road from my school (bearing mostly melons, tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegis) and among the dry, dusty olive trees.
This is pretty much the extent of my recollection from those years. The memories were rekindled when, recently, I engaged in a conversation with a college buddy about Tabriz, its railway station, and routes served by trains. I have also dug up some images from Wikipedia and elsewhere for inclusion in this post.
Note 1: This old image shows the arrival of the first Russian train in Tabriz, with the ceremony attended by Crown Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza, local authorities, Russian officers, and railway workers.
Note 2: Tabriz's century-old train station was inscribed on National Heritage List, thanks to its place in Iran's railroad history.
Note 3: "The Proposed Connection of the Russian and Indian Railway Systems" (1917 article, published in Geographical Review).
Note 4: The July 27, 1917, issue of Railway Age Gazette indicates that the Tabriz-Julfa railway, with its branch from Sofian to Sharafkhaneh on Lake Urumiah, was completed mid-1917.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's year-end melt-down on 12/31/2018 led to a collection of confusing and contradictory tweets.
- I achieved the goal of emptying my e-mail in-box before the end of 2018, with more than an hour to spare!
- I am fascinated with numbers and their attributes: Sad to report that the number 2019 is very unspecial!
- Some prediction for 2019: Trump will go, and other cases of wishful thinking!
- One year after their announcements, US and Israel formally quit UNESCO, citing its anti-Israel bias.
- This is the 10-foot wall around the Obamas' compound in DC, according to Trump's very active imagination.
- The three women at the top of this image have made social-media posts about Michelle Obama being ugly!
(4) Today is Public Domain Day: Tens of thousands of published works have been released from their copyright shackles. "These works dating from 1923 were supposed to become part of the public domain in 1998 (after the statutory 75 years), but in that year, Disney and other powerful copyright holders successfully lobbied Congress to extend copyright restrictions another 20 years. This way, Disney postponed the lapse of copyright on its biggest icon, Mickey Mouse."
(5) New authoritarians are waging war on women: The common denominator among the anti-democratic movements across the globe is hostility toward women and a longing to reverse decades of feminist gains.

Blog Entries for 2018

2018 bonus year-end posts: A way of clearing my backlog of posts before entering the new year 2019.
Holiday decorations at my home-office (1) A year-end wish: As we end 2018 and look past the gloom and doom predictions to 2019, may your final day of this year be filled with peace and joy, and may the new year bring you much hope, health, happiness, and success.
(2) Humorous Persian poem: The anonymous poet makes fun of the fact that amid major sociopolitical problems and rampant corruption, a customs official insulting a parliament member is being treated as a most-important crisis.
(3) Erasing women: VR fashion show goes to Iran, albeit with severe limitations on the virtual models and their clothing. Is this progress or caving in to patriarchal views?
(4) Quote of the day: "We all, everyone in uniform, we took an oath; we took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. And embedded within that Constitution is an idea, and it's an idea that says you and I, no matter whether you're male or female, gay or straight or anything else, whether you're black or you're white or whether you're Protestant or you're Catholic or you're Jew or you're Muslim or you don't believe at all, it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor or famous—it doesn't matter. None of that matters." ~ Army General Mark Milley, who awaits Senate confirmation as the new Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's easy ride is coming to an end in 2019: And he's not thrilled that a woman will make his ride bumpy.
- The murky Washington 'Swamp' remains undrained, as we head into 2019.
- Fake porn: An unfortunate new way to use technology for harassing women. [#TimesUp]
- The Azeri song "Sari Galin," performed on udu hang instrument. [1-minute video]
- Regional folk music from Iran: This popular oldie is from the Caspian-region province of Guilan.
- Persian music: The song "Beh Sooy-e To" ("Toward You"), accompanied by scenes from Tehran of Yore.
(6) A rape victim's story: I apologize for bringing up this grim subject during the festive holiday season, but having encountered a year-old story on my Twitter feed a couple of days ago, I thought I should share it. It isn't an exaggeration to say that our society's rape culture will not change until men learn to see the problem from a woman's perspective. So, my post is aimed primarily at my male readers, but women too may learn something from it. Here is the article's concluding paragraph: "There is a growing dialogue in America about the prevalence of sexual violence—just look at the #metoo movement. But we haven't discussed the complicated impact of sexual violence on individuals in a widespread, meaningful conversation. It's time to start having those conversations."
(7) Why do engineers often wear short sleeves? According to Henry Petroski, writing in the December 2018 issue of ASEE Prism, "In the days of hand drawings, engineers took to wearing short-sleeve shirts because long sleeves and cuffs would have been blackened by graphite dust." Hence, "casual Friday" every day!
(8) "Promoting Common Sense, Reality, Dependable Engineering": This is the title given by Communications of the ACM (Vol. 61, No. 12, pp. 128-127, December 2018) to an interview with Peter G. Neumann, the long-serving guru of the risks to the public of poorly designed computer systems. I use items from "Risks Forum", which he moderates, in my graduate course on fault-tolerant computing and highly recommend the interview and his Forum to anyone who is worried about the risks of computer systems.
(9) Trump stands up for Saudi Arabian values: This is the title of a scathing New York Times editorial from November 20, 2018, which critizes Trump for not even paying lip service to freedom of the press after the abhorrent murder of Jamal Khashoggi by a hit squad sent to Turkey by the Saudi regime.

2018/12/31 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Oregon's monster mushroom: The world's largest living organism is 2400 years old Humorous Persian poem by B. Parhami, entitled 'Whatever Previously Existed in Iran Should Go' Can we retire the term 'the weaker sex' already? (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Oregon's monster mushroom: The world's largest living organism is 2400 years old. (The mushroom photo is fake and the enourmous fungus, which is real and covers several square miles, lives under the ground. Pretty good idea for a tourist monument on the site, though!) [Center] My humorous Persian poem (see item 2 below). [Right] Can we retire the term "the weaker sex" already?
(2) A humorous Persian poem: I had kept this poem of mine, composed a few months after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and titled "Whatever Previously Existed in Iran Should Go," under wraps until now (see the middle image above). It is written from the vantage point of Khomeini, who was opposed to many symbols of Iran's 1970s culture and wanted them gone. Make sure to read the final rhyming word of each verse as "Berah," the way Khomeini would have pronounced it. Enjoy! The poem's image is from a page of my diary/calendar for 1980 (1358 in Iranian calendar), which I rediscovered a week or so ago. There are other poems and notes in that calendar, which I will share over time. Here is a 2-minute video in which I recite the 4-decade-old poem.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Jim Mattis sends farewell letter to Department of Defense personnel on his last day as Secretary of Defense.
- Mitch McConnell has gone into total hiding, despite his central role in the ongoing government shutdown.
- Peter King praises ICE for having only two kids die in custody, and hears about it from Chelsea Clinton.
- Several US newspapers victimized by what they suspect to be a foreign malware attack.
- Teen boy, 16, is set to graduate from a Kansas high school and, days later, from Harvard University.
- Not for the faint-hearted: Aerial videos of mind-numbing places and some daring photographers.
- On mergers: "Soon there'll be only 2 US companies left, AppleZon and GoldmanGoogleMart." ~ Bill Maher
- Fusion music: "Jingle Bells," Persian style [1-minute video], and belly/dance tango [3-minute video].
(4) Holiday mystery: A hush-hush case relating to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has reached the US Supreme Court and is getting personal attention from Chief Justice John Roberts. "The dry issues involved matters of jurisdiction and statutory interpretation fathomed only by elite appellate lawyers, but the potentially juicier underlying issues hinted of fascination: somewhere, a corporation (a bank? a communications firm? an energy company?) owned by a foreign state (Russia? Turkey? Ukraine? United Arab Emirates? Saudi Arabia?) had engaged in transactions that had an impact in the United States and on matters involved in the special counsel's investigation."
(5) In an interview everyone knew would be coming, John Kelly says he should be judged not by what Trump did but by what didn't get done during his tenure as Chief of Staff.
(6) Trump lies again about the FBI deleting 19,000 text messages: He apparently did not read or wasn't briefed on a report from his own administration that the messages were temporarily lost to a technical glitch and that they have since been fully recovered.
(7) Today in history: US President Carter lauds the Shah and characterizes Iran as "an island of stability" 41 years ago today, a little over one year before the Islamic Revolution.
(8) When there is incontrovertible evidence in support of a hypothesis, you shouldn't treat it as a "both sides" issue: There is no credible "other side" for the hypothesis that the Earth is round. Kudos to NBC for finally deciding not to give equal time to climate-change deniers.

2018/12/30 (Sunday): Today's blog post contains a book introduction and two brief book reviews.
Cover image for the book 'The Data Center as a Computer' Cover image for Stuart Gibbs' 'Spy School' Cover image for Reese Witherspoon's 'Whiskey in a Teacup' (1) Book introduction: Parallel processing has entered the age of warehouse-scale machines, where the computer is a large collection of servers, connected by a data-center network. This book, authored by three Google researchers as part of the series "Synthesis Lectures in Computer Architecture," explains the concepts in its 2019 third edition. The 2013 second edition is available on-line.
[Citation: Barroso, Luiz Andre, Urs Holzle, and Parthasarathy Ranganathan, The Data Center as a Computer: Designing Warehouse-Scale Machines, Morgan & Caypool, 3rd ed., 2019.]
(2) Book review: Gibbs, Stuart, Spy School, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Gibson Frazier, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this first book of the "Spy School" series, seemingly targeted at pre-teens, Gibbs introduces us to Ben Ripley, an awkward, nerdy middle-school boy who is recruited for a prestigious science school, which turns out to be a front for a junior CIA academy. He sees this lucky turn of events as a cure-all for his perceived lack of coolness and inattention from his beautiful crush. Ben isn't really the James Bond type, but he tries his best to become an undercover agent, and does perform as a halfway-decent spy through a series of misadventures. A fun story, which is surprisingly well-conceived and nicely written, given its target audience.
(3) Book review: Witherspoon, Reese, Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love & Baking Biscuits, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Early on, Witherspoon, CEO of a company that produces films and TV shows with strong female leads, tells us that "whiskey in a teacup" is a metaphor for southern women: Delicate and pretty on the outside, strong on the inside. The audiobook, which is rather short to begin with, is light on life events and rich on lifestyle, and it comes with a PDF file containing recipes, among other symbols of the South. Witherspoon is proud of her Southern heritage and enjoys playing in films about the South, where she can use her natural accent.
Witherspoon's bubbly personality shows, both in the writing and in the reading of her work. She fawns over Dolly Parton ("the ultimate Southern icon"), Kate Middleton, and Patsy Cline. She writes at length about the beauty of Southern female friendships and the importance of beauty-shop politics, party-hosting, baking, feeding and entertaining guests, and gift-giving (she prefers cakes over flowers, because they are more practical and don't go to waste).
Witherspoon is a big fan of monograms and has many tips on properly dressing for various occasions (never go on a plane in sweatpants), make-up (she went to a beauty school), and acting (watch "Steel Magnolias").
This is no literary memoir, but it's a fun read/listen, particularly for fans of the Oscar-winning actress.

2018/12/29 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mini-reunion of class-of-1968 EE/ME graduates of Tehran University's Faculty of Engineering (1) Mini-reunion of class-of-1968 EE/ME graduates of Tehran University's Faculty of Engineering: On Thursday night, I saw three college buddies (Faramarz Davarian, Javad Peyrovian, Yousef Salimpour, right to left with me in the photo), their spouses, and a couple of other family members. Yousef is visiting from France and Faramarz generously hosted the dinner gathering. A memorable night indeed! [Three of these four classmates (all but Javad) had also been present at a much larger 50th-anniversary reunion in Yerevan, Armenia, this past July.]
(2) Quote of the day: "The president boasting about the dangers he'd faced, and [John] Bolton was a brave man to go with him. God, he's talking to special operations soldiers in Iraq, it's sort of embarrassing." ~ Retired General Barry McCaffrey, criticizing Trump's politicized, dishonest, and boastful visit to the US troops in Iraq [Newsweek story]
(3) Image manipulation: The same technology that gives us better entertainment can be used in the service of spreading disinformation. Here's the process of creating a video of anyone saying/doing anything we want.
(4) Toddler-in-Chief vents: Trump continues to attack NAFTA (which has already been replaced by his USMCA) and threatens to completely close the US border with Mexico if Democrats do not agree to fund his wall.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Political brawls and revelations about illegal activities by those around Trump will extend into 2019.
- Saudi student awaiting trial for murder in Oregon flees the US on a private jet, despite having no passport.
- Two super-rich Saudi families become citizens of Malta by purchasing 62 of the EU member's passports.
- Fire-ravaged Brazil National Museum lives on through Google, which is helping via a virtual exhibition.
- New proof of a 25-year-old claim that quantum computers are way more powerful than classical devices.
- A tantalizing question: Is the Church-Turing Thesis the logical limit or a breachable barrier? [CACM article]
- A beautiful Azeri dance: Quite complicated and physically challenging! [1-minute video]
- Topical images for the season: Migrants ahead; Weight-gain saving time; Winter (in Norway); Resolutions.
(6) How a slime-mold amoeba found an entirely new way of solving the challenging "traveling salesperson" problem: Even though the amoeba used by Keio University researchers is extremely slow in its solution method, as the problem size increases, its processing time grows only linearly, not exponentially, which is the case for conventional algorithms. [Video]
(7) The ongoing debate on the (in)compatibility of science and religion: This is a vast area of disagreement and conflicting opinions. Lately, arguments that science and religion are not only compatible, but they can actually help each other have proliferated. In this article, biologist Jerry Coyne argues that "accomodationism" is misguided and that science and religion constitute incompatible ways of viewing the world.

2018/12/28 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine's 1968 Persons of the Year (Apollo 8 moon-orbiting astronauts, famous for their Earthrise photo, from left, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman), reunite after 50 years (1) Time magazine's 1968 Persons of the Year (Apollo 8 moon-orbiting astronauts, famous for their Earthrise photo, from left, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman), reunite after 50 years.
(2) The year when scams proliferated is coming to an end: What have we learned? The story in this article begins with a con artist, a young black woman, who collected lots of money through GoFundMe to make a political statement (she has since returned the contributions).
(3) Some pricing algorithms may be illegal: Examining the potential and consequences of using algorithm-based pricing. [Communications of the ACM Law and Technology column, January 2019]
(4) T-shirt for young Iranians, who are tired of family members and acquaintances asking them about their GPA, when they'll get married, how much they earn, and other very private questions! [Photo]
(5) New mercenary jobs: If certain 0.1-percenters close to the Trump administration have their way, not only the postal service, universities, prisons, and healthcare but also waging of wars will be fully privatized.
(6) Soldier-less wars of the future: Fighting wars with robots may appear to be a positive development, but further reflection reveals at least two problems. First, casualties suffered by invading forces is one of the major deterrents of starting new wars, particularly in the case of the US and other industrialized countries. Second, civilian casualties will not be eliminated, and may in fact increase, because robotic-army leaders will be highly incentivized to kill anyone coming near an expensive robot which contains classified equipment and technology. [Cover image, E&T magazine, issue of December 2018 and January 2019]
(7) STEM education in Canada and California: By offering free 2-day workshops to introduce young girls to programming, the Canadian nonprofit Hackergal aims to influence female students' selection of CS as a high-school elective or career. California Education Learning Lab, established in 2018 by Assembly Bill 1809, is a competitive grant-making program for faculty teams to incorporate science and adaptive learning technology into curricula and pedagogy, so as to improve learning outcomes and close equity and achievement gaps. Here is an introduction to the Lab by its Director, Lark Park, and here is its RFP #1, 2018-2019.
(8) The enigma of street musicians in Iran: Certain kinds of music is disallowed, singing by women is prohibited, performances require government permits. Yet, Iranians are defiant in entertaining with music and supporting street performers. The happy part is the impact of beautiful music on people's dispositions, as they go about their daily lives. The sad part is such talented individuals having to take risks to make ends meet. I am in awe of the talent and the determination to preserve Iran's musical heritage in the face of shortsighted rulers who want to wipe smiles off people's faces. [Sample street music]
(9) Working hard to accomplish the goal of an empty e-mail in-box by New Year's Eve: It is down to 5 items!

2018/12/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump cartoons for the holidays: 1 of 3 Trump cartoons for the holidays: 2 of 3 Trump cartoons for the holidays: 3 of 3 (1) Trump cartoons: A three-pack for the holidays! [A fourth, bonus, cartoon is included in this package.]
(2) The Liar-in-Chief lies even to the troops: He brags about giving them a 10% pay raise, after years of stagnant wages. The troops in fact got a pay raise in each of the last 10 years. The 2019 pay raise will be 2.6%, only slightly above the 2.4% they got last year. Here is Newsweek's version of Trump's first set of lies ever, told inside Iraq!
(3) An apt reminder of a stellar record of service to the US: "Today, as we stand here together on this, the darkest of days, we renew that bond. We remember the light these individuals brought to each of you here today. We renew our efforts to bring justice down on those who seek to harm us. We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of terrorism. We will continue to move forward. But we will never forget." ~ Robert Mueller, 30 years ago on Winter Solstice, as he began his quest to solve the mystery of Pan Am Flight 103 and bring the culprits to justice
(4) Book review: Garrels, Anne, Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by the author, HighBridge Audio, 2016 [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for Anne Garrels' 'Putin Country' Most of us never see the real Russia. Even those of us who get to travel to the vast country see only what is intended for tourists to see. In this book, foreign correspondent Anne Garrels shows us Russia's well-hidden parts: Its bizarre economy, its social divide between Moscow's elite and the urban/rural poor, and its widespread corruption. Garrels writes that to decide which part of Russia to explore, she took a map of the country and threw a pencil at it, which landed on Chelyabinsk, not far from the Ural Mountains, near the European border.
With a population of just over 1 million, Chelyabinsk is perhaps best-known for the 2013 meteor exploding at an altitude of about 27 km, generating a shock wave that injured over 1000 people. Garrels has been going to Chelyabinsk for over 20 years, so as to explore the area and its people in depth. The area was closed to foreigners during the Soviet era, given its military and industrial make-up, including two mysterious "nuclear cities," which are still out of bounds to everyone.
Garrels covers the harsh experiences of the region in the 1990s, as industries were privatized under Boris Yeltsin, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Workers were not being paid and they had to improvise by selling vegetables from their gardens or traveling to China to buy cheap goods, to cite just two examples.
Putin became popular by talking about Russia's greatness, and by promising to enrich the impoverished country and bringing about stability. Given how low the economy had sunk, it wasn't difficult to bring about steady improvements. However, corruption is still a big problem and there does not seem to be an end in sight for it, given that nurturing and protecting families depends on it. No part of the Russian society, from goods-procurement to higher education, is immune from such corruption.
Garrels received a visit from Russia's security agency one early morning, was taken in for questioning, and told to leave the country immediately, with no explanation (she had previously been expelled as an ABC correspondent under Soviet rule in 1982). She was later allowed back in and continued her observations, but now, people were more cautious in their interactions with her.
For those who want to gain in-depth knowledge of a small part of Russia, this is a great read. For others, Garrels' NPR interview about her book (podcast and transcript) is a more-efficient substitute.

2018/12/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The ship that, at the end of 1899, was in two different days of the week, two different months, two different seasons, and two different centuries Heart-wrenching violence against women: The attitude that men own women ('If I can't have you, nobody else can') is alive and well in Iran, and the authorities pay only lip service to fixing the problem Berlin wall being knocked down (1) Miscellaneous images: [Left] Hard to believe, but true: The story of the ship that, at the end of 1899, was in two different days of the week, two different months, two different seasons, and two different centuries. [Center] Heart-wrenching violence against women: The attitude that men own women ("If I can't have you, nobody else can") is alive and well in Iran, and the authorities pay only lip service to fixing the problem. (#MasoumehJalilpour) [Right] Berlin Wall, redux: Wouldn't it be ironic if Trump's Wall were built and, in some future year, people gathered to knock it down as they celebrated?
(2) Real-time face-capture technology: The January 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM features the technology in its cover feature. While the development is technically quite exciting, it leads to the easy production of fake videos that are nearly indistinguishable from real ones. The image in front on the cover is generated by combining the other two images. More examples of facial reenactments, where mouth and lip configurations are superimposed from one input video to another video, appear in this image from page 102.
(3) Former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sends a Christmas message to the world: Or is this one of those fake videos made with the new face-capture technology? [See item (2) above]
(4) Trump's latest whopper, about the government shut-down and out-of-work federal workers: "Many of those workers have said to me ... 'stay out until you get the funding for the wall.'"
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Kwanzaa! Celebrating the African diaspora, Kwanzaa means "first fruits of the harvest" in Swahili.
- Ten die in bus accident on a mountainous road within an Iran Azad University campus.
- US markets rebound, but investors are wary of additional losses: Monday's 2-3% loss was reversed by noon.
- Musical Christmas wish, somewhere in Los Angeles. [Photo]
- Putin's allies float the idea of constitutional changes to circumvent term limits for the 2-term President.
- History in pictures: A man and his dog at Yosemite National Park, 1924. [Photo]
(6) US Senator Susan Collin is no feminist: She could have quietly endorsed Brett Kavanaugh, but instead, she chose to deliver a 45-minute holier-than-thou lecture, sugar-coating her anti-feminist vote with feminist lingo and the many survivor stories she had heard. Her endorsement was a calculated move to win back the Republican support she had lost in voting against the repeal of Obamacare.
(7) How Europe deals with hi-tech competition from China: EU has approved plans from France, Germany, Italy, and the UK to fund up to $9.1 billion (8 billion euros) in microelectronics research.
(8) Gerald Ford [1913-2006], the 38th US president, died 12 years ago, today: He became US president when Richard Nixon resigned a year into his second term. Dubbed "the accidental president," Ford replaced VP Spiro Agnew when he was forced to resign. So, he was never elected to vice-presidency or presidency.

2018/12/25 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump is like a horse or elephant in a street parade: He needs a clean-up crew to pick up the mess after him! Trump and his GOP enablers: Someday, these two stooges and others will have to explain their behavior to the American people Trump and his indicted and/or racist sidekicks (1) Trump-related images, captured from Seth Myeres' recurring late-night-show segment "A Closer Look": [Left] Trump is like a horse or elephant in a street parade: He needs a clean-up crew to pick up the mess after him! [Center] Trump and his GOP enablers: Someday, these two stooges and others will have to explain their behavior to the American people. [Right] Trump and his indicted and/or racist co-conspirators.
(2) Archaeology: A Persian military camp, that may have been used as a base camp by King Cambyses in his all-out attack on Egypt more than 2500 years ago, has been unearthed in northern Israel.
(3) What I did on a windy, but gorgeous, Christmas Day in Goleta: My older son, my daughter, and I went to Ming Dynasty for a traditional Jewish Christmas-Day lunch! Two years ago, my second son was with us also. After our buffet lunch, a long walk was called for, so we went to the recently restored UCSB North Campus Open Space and, from there, to the beach and back.
(4) Trump plans to complete the border wall by Election Day 2020: Iranians have a saying for every occasion. The appropriate one here is, "The man was banned from entering a village, he was asking for directions to the mayor's house." [Read it in Persian] In English, we have, "Learn to walk before you run."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump on Dems' oversight in 2019: It's harassment, and "I know how to handle that better than anybody."
- Let's pass this law: Government shutdown means that salaries and services at the WH and Congress are cut.
- And now for something different this Christmas Day: Belly dancing to Jingle Bells.
- This is how giant ships are launched: Usually, sideways, not lengthwise! [11-minute video]
(6) Interesting debate on Sunday's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" program: "Many people are hoping 2019 will be a better year for the world. But is it possible 2018 was actually the best year ever?" Steven Pinker, psychology professor at Harvard and the persistent optimist who thinks we live in the best of times, debated Niall Ferguson, senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, who represented a pessimistic view that we must not lose sight of black-swan events (major wars and the like) amid generally improving conditions. [Teaser]
[I have not found a full video of this must-see debate; I will post the video if and when it becomes available.]
(7) Final thought for the day: "The danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times more than you bargained for. Once you start, you can't stop." ~ Philip Roth

2018/12/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Bill Gates thanks his Secret Santa for making a charity donation in his name George H. W. Bush and the child he secretly sponsored Former President Barack Obama plays Santa to kids in a children's hospital (1) Charitable leaders: [Left] Bill Gates thanks his Secret Santa for making a charity donation in his name. [Center] George H. W. Bush secretly sponsored a child in the Philippines and served as his pen pal for years. [Right] Former President Barack Obama plays Santa to kids in a children's hospital.
(2) A very happy holiday season and new year to you! May you enjoy the Christmas break with your loved ones and may the United States of America get back on course from its current nose-dive into fake greatness.
(3) US stocks fell another 2-3% in today's shortened trading session: Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 653 points, smashing a 100-year-old record dating back to Christmas Eve 1918. [Chart]
(4) In Sydney, Australia, if you use your cell phone while driving, they will take your picture and fine you, much like the use of remotely-operated cameras at intersections to catch those who run red lights.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Canada experiences immigration explosion in tech specialists: Rise of 83% to 538% in various categories.
- The impactful return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park: A fascinating segment in CBS's "60 Minutes."
- Trump: I've done more damage to ISIS than all recent presidents...! Twitter reader: Hey, you misspelled USA!
- Vanity Fair headline: The Terrifying Paradox in Trump's War on Everything. [Photo]
- James Cordern, Emily Blunt, and Lin-Manuel Miranda perform segments from 22 musicals in 12 minutes.
- A most-impressive example of shadow-dancing. [Video]
- Beautiful music from Iran's Caspian-Sea region: Guilan Symphony Orchestra performs. [4-minute video]
- Music from Iran's Shooshtar-Dezful region, performed by the Rastak Ensemble. [5-minute video]
- Iran tourism: Introducing the city of Isfahan and its wonders. [3-minute video]
- Iran history/tourism: Tour of the historic city of Bishapour in Kazeroon, Fars Province. [8-minute video]
(6) Shame on con-men who fool the masses by pretending to represent God, and on their enablers in Iran and elsewhere: This con-man/cleric relates the story of Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law touching a wife on the shoulder, which immediately led to signs of pregnancy and, within an hour, the delivery of a baby boy!
(7) Mega-mall, with its architecture inspired by several historical sites and monuments, set to open in Tehran, Iran: Interestingly, this video opens with an Islamic call to prayer, indicating that it was made to appease the mullahs. Here is a YouTube video about the same project.

2018/12/23 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Gift idea: For your liberal friends in the US, there is this anti-Trump mug, available from various sellers at $10-15 Gift idea for a loved one in Iran: You can make them an overnight book author at a cost of 5-10 million tomans! Nerdy Christmas message: me^(rry) = x - mas! (1) A couple of holiday gift ideas and a nerdy message: [Left] For your liberal friends in the US, there is this anti-Trump mug, available from various sellers at $10-15 (excuse the poor grammar). [Center] And for a loved one in Iran, you can make them an overnight book author at a cost of 5-10 million tomans, equivalent to about 500-1000 US dollars (see the list of titles and prices)! [Right] Deriving the equation: me^(rry) = x–mas!
(2) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: This is the title of a 1953 short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, later turned into a 1962 John Ford movie by the same title. In the now-classic Western film, James Stewart plays a wimpy scholar who gets involved in a shoot-out against the outlaw character Valance (played by Lee Marvin). Valance is shot dead before he can draw his gun, with the Stewart character thinking that he accomplished the impossible feat. However, Valance was actually shot dead by a hidden sharp-shooter, played by John Wayne. Trump and his sidekicks, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, think that their strengths and smarts slayed Hillary Clinton, while the fatal shot was actually fired by a Russian sharp-shooter, as new revelations confirm.
(3) Trump reportedly rattled by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' resignation letter and the Fed's interest-rate hike. He is considering firing the Fed Chief, as #TrumpResigns trends on Twitter.
(4) Advances in game-playing programs: The unprecedented success of Google's AlphaZero shows that DeepMind has produced an algorithm capable of mastering even the toughest board games with fixed rules.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hundreds perish in Indonesia from tsunami induced by underwater volcanic eruption and mudslide.
- Norwegian and Danish women beheaded in Morocco: ISIS seems to want to scare tourists away.
- Trump, angered by Jim Mattis' resignation letter, fires him two months before his resignation date. [NYT]
- Acting President appoints another acting secretary! Deputy Defense Secretary takes Jim Mattis' position.
- The Trump presidency faces four major threats, all beginning with 'M': Markets; Mueller; Military; Media.
- US House enacts the National Quantum Computing Initiative, a 10-year program to spur R&D in the field.
- It's ironic that a guy who looks like this, and needs spray-on hair to feel whole, considers his race superior.
- Just another beautiful day in Goleta, California: Photo of the car in front of me at Fairview-101 on-ramp.
(6) Tweet of the day: Aida Ahadiany observes that Iranian films contain too much screaming, concluding with the advice that sorrow, pain, and uncertainty cannot be communicated effectively in this way. [Tweet image]
(7) Sustainability research gains prominence at UCSB: Henley Hall, a new building to house our Institute for Energy Efficiency, is expected to open in fall 2020.

2018/12/22 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map of Japan and the expected location of a magnitude-9.0 quake in the next 3 decades Cartoon: Crushed by the weight of the news The grocery chain Kroger has teamed up with Nuro to expand the use of self-driving food delivery vehicles in Arizona (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Japan is quietly preparing for a magnitude-9.0 quake and associated 30-meter tsunami waves, that are said to have 3 in 4 odds of occurring near its southern shores over the next 3 decades. [Center] Does anyone else feel crushed by the news (both volume and gravity)? [Right] The grocery chain Kroger has teamed up with Nuro to expand the use of self-driving food delivery vehicles in Arizona.
(2) Trump's second gift to Putin in as many days: He lifts sanctions against an oligarch linked to Putin and to the bank that was to finance the Trump Tower Moscow project.
(3) Consciousness and associated psychological processes—thoughts, beliefs, ideas, intentions, and more—are products of non-conscious processes: Confused? Read this article!
(4) History of human space flight: A wonderful resource page concerning the history of human space flight, as we prepare to celebrate in 2019 the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy winter/summer! As we enter the winter season, our friends down-under are starting their summer.
- Last night's gorgeous sunset in Carpinteria, posted by one of our local Channel 3 reporters.
- US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg undergoes emergency lung-cancer surgery.
- Yes, Mr. Ryan, America is broken, as you observed, but I wish you'd say a few words about who broke it!
- Anyone who disagrees with Trump is weak and stupid: This week it was the Fed's turn to be dissed!
- Mitch McConnell says he is distressed over Jim Mattis resigning. Here are his distressed and normal looks!
- Los Angeles names the 134 freeway "President Barack H. Obama Highway." [Photo]
- Two young UCSB professors have been honored with Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award.
(6) Iran's Supreme Leader essentially pre-approves the use of deadly force on street protesters: Normally, he would wait until after the protests to blame the US, Israel, the Saudis, or whoever else came to his mind. By saying the US is hatching evil plans for 2019 (perhaps worried about Islamic Republic's 40th anniversary celebrations, which would be natural targets of protests), he is giving his security apparatus a blank check to deal with them as they please. All street protesters will now be viewed as US agents, unless proven otherwise.
(7) Major airport is shut down because of drone threat: Planes at Gatwick Airport, UK's second largest, were grounded due to repeated, deliberate drone interference with flight paths; no terrorism seems to be involved.
(8) Final thought for the day: "We need to write now, write well—tell the truth in all its messy complexity. It's our best shot at helping to preserve a democracy in which facts still exist and all of us can speak freely." ~ Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and President of PEN America

2018/12/21 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Winter Solstice and the Iranian Festival of Yalda, celebrating the longest night of the year. Colored eggshells: Apt image for educating racists A gorgeous sunrise in Goleta, California, a day before the Winter Solstice (Shab-e Yalda) (1) Appreciating the colors of nature: [Left] Happy Winter Solstice and the Iranian Festival of Yalda, celebrating the longest night of the year. [Center] Colored eggshells: Apt image for educating racists. [Right] A gorgeous sunrise in Goleta, California, a day before the Winter Solstice (Shab-e Yalda).
(2) The US has abandoned the Kurds for the second time, once leaving them at the mercy of the butcher of Baghdad who gassed them en mass and now leaving them vulnerable to massacre by Assad and Erdogan.
(3) Free press is a rare privilege: Only 13% of people live where the press operates with little influence, few legal constraints, and no fear of repercussions. [Map credit: Time magazine]
(4) Mohammed bin Salman to his security chief: "Kill this man, jail that woman!" Reply: "Yes, sir!"
Donald Trump to FBI: "Jail this man, investigate that woman!" Reply: "Are you f---ing crazy?"
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- For years, Facebook exempted business partners from its rules, giving them broad access to private data.
- Techiest US state: Massachusetts tops Milken Institute's 2018 State Technology and Science Index.
- Interesting architectures in Iran: Ghazvin Bazaar and other samples of work by Goli Tavakoli. [Photos]
- Donald Knuth worries about algorithms getting too prominent, and so complicated they cannot be read.
- In a first, Reporters Without Borders places the US among the top-5 deadliest countries for journalists.
- A market in Tehran, Iran, with Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) decorations and antique home implements.
- Democracies flourish where there is bright light. Autocracies prosper in total darkness.
(6) Scientific fraud: Fei Wang, Tenured Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at U. Illinois, has been fired after revelations that he had fabricated data in NSF and NIH grant applications.
(7) Science's big crisis, created by big data: In this age of "big data," scientists tend to perform statistical analyses long after the data have been collected. This creates a reproducibility crisis, fueled in part by the analyses applied to data-driven hypotheses, the opposite of how things are traditionally done. Scientists can luckily see interesting but spurious patterns in a dataset, leading them to formulate hypotheses which will, of course, be validated by the data. To protect against this eventuality, data should be seen only after the hypothesis-formulation stage.
(8) Tweet of the day: Do not say that 3 pre-school kids were killed in Zahedan (Iran). Honor their memories by mentioning their names to the clueless authorities running our country. Scream Mona Khosro-Parast, Maryam Nokandi, and Saba Arabi! We people are more than a bunch of numbers in news stories. [Persian tweet]
(9) Final thoughts for the day, with calligraphic images from Time magazine, issue of December 24/31, 2018.
- "Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom." ~ John McCain [1936-2018] [Image]
- "Freedom of the press ensures that the abuse of every other freedom can be known, can be challenged, and even defeated." ~ Kofi Annan [1938-2018] [Image]

2018/12/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sample social-media posts in the US by Russia's Internet Research Agency, Image 1 Sample social-media posts in the US by Russia's Internet Research Agency, Image 2 Sample social-media posts in the US by Russia's Internet Research Agency, Image 3 (1) Sample social-media posts in the US by Russia's Internet Research Agency, which operates a troll farm. These samples exploit three key wedge issues: Military/veterans, race, and religion. In the category of race, Russian trolls played on legitimate grievances of black Americans to sow discord and suppress votes.
(2) Which is it, Donald: Have we defeated ISIS or are we leaving the fight to others? You can't have it both ways! And, by the way, we already had by far the most powerful military in the world; you aren't building it!
(3) In a chain of tweets, beginning with these two, Trump defends his "charitable" foundation, which he is dissolving in the face of allegations of fraud, much like what he did with Trump University in 2016.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Correlation between share of white people with no college degree and districts' 2018 voting margin. [Chart]
- Rudy Giuliani has become an embarrassment to himself and to our country: When will this prolonged end?
- Trump Foundation joins his University in the dustbin of history, following allegations of illegal conduct.
- Despite dozens of daily air strikes against ISIS, Trump declares victory and orders US forces out of Syria.
- Illinois AG slams the Catholic Church for its protection of hundreds of accused priests in her jurisdiction.
- Christmas music by a wonderful couple at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace. [Video 1] [Video 2]
(5) Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigns, effective the end of February 2019, over differences with Trump. (Differences? Did he just wake up from a 2-year slumber? There goes the last remaining adult in the room, taking with him a shattered reputation!)
(6) The House Democratic majority just broke Trump, even before being sworn in: He rescinds the threat to shut down the government unless he gets funding for his wall, saying he will fund it some other way.
(7) MPAA rating chair retires after nearly two decades: Joan Graves, who oversaw Motion Picture Association of America's film rating endeavors, talks with NPR's Ari Shapiro about the big business of movie ratings. Among interesting tidbits in this program, we learn that many directors sign contracts with movie studios that include explicit mention of the finished product's rating. They consult with the rating board's liaison office in script and all later stages to ensure they can hit the targeted rating. One filmmaker wanted to know if it would be possible to make a movie about a womanizing and drug-using celebrity ("Ray"), while keeping the rating PG-13! If a movie targeting PG-13 ends up being rated R, the financial implications are enormous. Here's another interesting tidbit: MPAA rates films nationally, but regions of the US are sensitive to different things: Blasphemy in the South, nudity and sexuality in the Midwest, violence in coastal areas.
(8) Trump can't feign ignorance of campaign-finance laws: He once bragged to Larry King that he knows more about campaign-finance law than anybody. [Tweet image]
(9) The "Seven Friends" are back together: Afif Naeemi, the last among a group of imprisoned Baha'i leaders in Iran, has been released after serving 10 years in jail.

2018/12/19 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for the book 'What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism' (1) Book review: Rather, Dan and Elliot Kirschner, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, unabridged audiobook on 6 CDs, read by Dan Rather, HighBridge Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Rather, 87, a venerated journalist for much of his life (until he was ousted from CBS for not sufficiently vetting falsified documents critical of President George W. Bush), is now viewed as a voice of reason in our tumultuous political climate. However, it is difficult to listen to him without remembering his mis-steps. Additionally, his once-clear anchorman's enunciation has deteriorated with age, making one wish that the publisher had chosen a different reader for the audiobook.
Rather's writing style comes across as flat and cliche-ridden. Still, I found quite a few interesting topics in this collection of original essays, which touch upon the foundations of our country, from freedom, voting, and the press, to empathy, inclusion, and service, along with institutions and traits that make it all possible, namely, public education and the spirit of innovation in science, technology, and medicine.
In a November 2017 interview with NPR, Rather spoke about this book. Key parts of the interview covered patriotism being used as a political bludgeon, his mix of optimism and alarm about our country, and the impact he has had via Facebook that he could not have had at CBS.
(2) A clear case of collusion: For a whole year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been attacked by Donald Trump from the inside and by Russian trolls and disinformation agents from the outside.
(3) Another genius flees Iran: Shabnam Raayai-Ardakani, a Baha'i student who was prevented from doing graduate work at Iran's Sharif University of Technology, came to America, got her PhD at MIT, and won the prestigious American Physical Society's Stanley Corrsin Dissertation Award in Fluid Dynamics. She is now a post-doctoral researcher at MIT.
(4) Judge to Michael Flynn, when postponing his sentencing: "All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States. Arguably, that undermines everything that flag over here stands for." [Full story]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Dow Jones Industrial Average, and US stock market as a whole, in seriously negative territory for 2018.
- Where are Trump tweets about the market tanking? You can't boast about the highs and not own the lows!
- Film director and actress Penny Marshall dead at 75.
- California man details plans for ISIS-supported attacks around San Francisco that would "redefine terror."
- The fascinating story of meteorite hunters and their search for the most-coveted extra-terrestrial rock.
- Merriam-Webster's 2018 word of the year: Justice
- Persian equivalent terms: "charkhat" ("four lines") for "hashtag" (#) and "tarakonesh" for "transaction."
- Undersea servers solve a most challenging problem facing data centers: Keeping electronics cool.
(6) Pathology goes digital: After a biopsied tissue sample is sliced and stained, the slides are scanned and presented to a program, which uses its machine-learning training to spot subtle patterns and provide advice to the pathologist. [Source: IEEE Spectrum, issue of December 2018]
(7) The Internet of disposable things: Throwaway paper and plastic sensors will soon connect consumable goods and supplies. [Source: IEEE Spectrum, issue of December 2018]

2018/12/18 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some Democrats are troubled that the three front-runners for 2020 presidential election are all white males (Biden, Sanders, O'Rourke) Essay: Americans are much better than Russians in fostering discord among themselves How anger became the dominant emotion in America's politics and our citizens' lives, and what to do about it (1) Thoughts on American politics: [Left] Some Democrats are troubled that the three front-runners for 2020 presidential election are all white males (Biden, Sanders, O'Rourke). [Center] Americans are much better than Russians in fostering discord among themselves (The Atlantic essay). [Right] How anger became the dominant emotion in America's politics and our citizens' lives, and what to do about it (The Atlantic article).
(2) Paul Ryan's new discovery, uttered with a straight face: "I worry about tribal identity politics becoming the new norm ... As conservatives, we always thought this was sort of a left-wing ... thing. Unfortunately, the right practices identity politics now as well."
(3) Tweet of the day, for my Persian-speaking readers: On the passage of time and changing circumstances making old songs less relevant, while they remain enjoyable and popular. [Tweet, with continuations]
(4) What do the Islamic State and Trump administration have in common? Total disregard for the environment. Islamic State groups left occupied areas polluted and in ruins, even poisoning the wells from which they drank.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- I'd agree with calling the media's tendency to sensationalize "fake news," but not if done by the biggest liar!
- Hey there boarders: Your tireless-finger president is concerned about your security. Rejoice! [Trump tweet]
- OPEC is cutting production under the influence of Russia, which seems to be running the organization.
- Today in US history: On December 17, 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered Jews to leave the war zone.
- Clean-up crew caught clowning around and taking/posting offensive photos on the ruins of Camp Fire.
- Diverse film roles spanning six decades earn Jeff Bridges the Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award.
- Newly-discovered, pristine 4400-years-old tomb in Saqqara, Egypt, bears clues to the life of a royal official.
- Christmas music at the Camino Real Marketplace, played by members of Santa Barbara Trombone Society.
(6) Netflix competes with traditional movie studios, but it has a problem come Oscars time: Its films are not eligible for Academy Awards, unless they open in theaters. So, Netflix sent "Roma" to theaters first.
(7) Betting on climate change: Harvard has been quietly buying California vineyards and their water rights, particularly in areas expected to be hit hard by climate change, which would make the water rights precious.
(8) A teacher's best reward is former students appreciating and honoring him/her: This article (in Persian) appeared in Computer Report, the technical magazine of the Informatics Society of Iran, special issue on ISI's 40th anniversary, fall 2018. This brief reflection (in Persian) also appeared in the same issue.

2018/12/17 (Monday): Presenting some unusual puzzles and oddities from around the Internet.
A twist on Sudoku, Variant 1 A twist on Sudoku, Variant 2 A twist on Sudoku, Variant 3 A twist on Sudoku, Variant 4 A twist on Sudoku, Variant 5 A twist on Sudoku, Variant 6 (1) Six variations on Sudoku, from yesterday's New York Times: [Top left] Rules are the same as in ordinary Sudoku, with the added greater-than/less-than constraints. For example, the number in the top-left corner should be greater than the number to its right and less than the number below it. [Top center] You solve this one as usual, with the added constraints that the boxes having a small circle between them should hold consecutive numbers. So 1o should be followed by 2 and 6o by 5 or 7. [Top right] Here, all the numbers that are adjacent to 9 are given for each row and each column. For example, the entry 9 in the top row must be flanked by 2 and 3, in either order, and the 9 in the leftmost column has a 1 next to it (meaning that the 9 is either the top or bottom entry in Column 1). [Bottom left] The numbers along each thermometer go in increasing order, starting at the bulb, but they are not necessarily consecutive integers. For example, the thermometer on the bottom-right could hold 14679 but not 14689. [Bottom center] The miniature numbers should be placed in the four squares around them, but not necessarily in the given order. [Bottom right] This one's more challenging and rather different from ordinary Sudoku. The numbers 1 through 8 should not repeat in each of the three principal directions or within highlighted boxes. For example, using B for blank, the eight boxes on the left edge that should not contain repeated numbers are B2BBB7BB, and in the next-to-last layer from the top, the pattern is 2BBBBBB7.
(2) More puzzles from yesterday's New York Times: In these word puzzles, each of the eight 9-letter words, with one of its 3-letter blocks given, must be completed by using two of the triplets of letters provided on the left. A triplet must be used as a block, with letters appearing in the order given.
(3) One last unusual puzzle from yesterday's New York Times: Fill out the blank squares so that across and down entries are valid with both letter pairs given. For example, on the top left (across), the three blank squares should be filled out to give you two valid words _UA_ _ and _HO_ _.
(4) [Humor] Breaking news: Santa will out-source collection of wish lists to Facebook, his North-Pole workshop to Google's robotics branch, and gift delivery to Amazon, as he gets ready to retire.
(5) Cartoon caption—One legislator to another: "Can we limit the government shutdown to the White House?"
(6) Evolving lies: It didn't happen. ... Okay, it did, but I wasn't aware of it. ... I knew about it, but much later. So what? It wasn't illegal. ... It's a civil, not a criminal offense. ... [Insert the next explanation here.]

2018/12/16 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful red and orange wildflowers, Photo 1 Colorful red and orange wildflowers, Photo 2 Colorful red and orange wildflowers, Photo 3 (1) Our beautiful world: Colorful red and orange wildflowers.
(2) Venezuela's inflation rate surpasses 1 million percent: That's 10,000-fold price increases (imagine a $3 cup of coffee costing $30,000), and there is no end in sight. [Source: Newsweek]
(3) Renewal of the Investor Visa Program (EB-5) being scrutinized: Under the Freedom of Information Act, DHS has been ordered to send a rep to a hearing on the Program's status and Jared Kushner's role in it.
(4) Mick Mulvaney, the new Acting WH Chief of Staff, on Donald Trump, shortly before the 2016 election: "Yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump. I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Greta Thunberg, 15-year-old climate activist, addresses the plenary session at a UN climate conference.
- The worst nightmare of a con man: His entire life going under a powerful legal microscope.
- Google pauses development and sales of its facial recognition technology over ethical concerns. [Bloomberg]
- Persian music: Mandana Khazraei sings "Bezan Baaraan" (her own lyrics, on music by Babak Shahraki).
- This film-director-turned-baker from Vancouver converts pies to amazing works of art.
- Look what I found at Costco yesterday: An iPad guide for seniors, which is written in plain English!
(6) Trump question (June 2014 tweet): Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence? Answer (December 2018): Your question went unanswered for 4.5 years, but we're about to find out, Donald!
(7) Supreme-Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking to a group of new citizens at the National Archives, in front of the original copy of the US Constitution: You play a vital part in cleansing the stains of discrimination from the country.
(8) Democracy can't prosper with intolerance: In this tweet, Negar Mortazavi complains that her posting of a suggestion to Prince Reza Pahlavi to deal with the dark sides of his father's and grandfather's authoritarian rules, before staking a claim as their successor, brought about loads of cussing, sexual insults, and misogynistic comments, mostly from expats who live in democratic societies. I often dismiss claims that Iranians aren't ready for democracy, but when faced with such intolerant reactions to a stated opinion, doubts set in!
(9) Final thought for the day: Every time the federal government injects $1 of subsidy into our higher-education system, universities raise tuition prices and pocket 2/3 of it. [Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University and former Indiana Governor, this week on PBS "Firing Line"]

2018/12/15 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Front-page samples for National Enquirer Commemorative 40th-anniversary keepsake and the latest issue of 'Computer Report,' ISI's magazine Interesting protest sign: 'We need healthcare, not wealthcare' (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Front-page samples for National Enquirer. [Center] Informatics Society of Iran turns 40 (continued): I recently received a commemorative 40th-anniversary keepsake and the latest issue of Computer Report, ISI's magazine. [Right] Interesting protest sign: "We need healthcare, not wealthcare."
(2) National Enquirer, which published only positive stories about Trump and made-up conspiracy theories about his opponents (see the image above), turned relatively quite after the story of Trump buying out their files broke out. Now, the tabloid has turned against Trump in order to save itself and its owner, David Pecker.
(3) Yemen war being curtailed: For the first time since the passage of the War Powers Act in 1973, the US Senate orders the executive branch to end an unauthorized military campaign.
(4) Church abuse scandal: Of the 200+ clergymen identified as child molesters in Southern California, 12 held lengthy postings in the Santa Barbara area. [Source: Santa Barbara Independent]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Evangelical Christians' influence waning: They helped elect Trump, but cracks are appearing in their ranks.
- Putin's E. German Stasi card allowed him to operate in that country without being linked to the KGB. [NYT]
- My daughter is the 13th author on this research paper, published in the prestigious journal Science.
- Iranian regional music and dance: From the Bakhtiari or Lorestan region. [3-minute video]
- Quote of the day: "Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say." ~ Brenda Ueland
(6) Physicist Ania Bleszynski Jayich, who happens to be my wall-to-wall neighbor, is slated to receive more than $0.5 million as part of a $12-million project to "dramatically expand our understanding of quantum coherence in solids by building on fundamental materials discoveries." [Source: Convergence, the magazine of engineering and the sciences at UCSB]
(7) The 15-second security screening: Recently unveiled at an airport in Dubai, the process consists of an iris scan, followed by a walk through a "smart tunnel." [Source: IEEE Spectrum, issue of December 2018]
(8) Interesting calendar fact: Next week's Winter Solstice gives us the shortest day (longest night) of the year, but not the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise. In the Northern Hemisphere, the earliest sunset occurs a week or two before the Winter Solstice and the latest sunrise a week or two after. The timing of the two events is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. [Table]

2018/12/14 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Status update by Sisyphus: 'Almost at the top, fam!' Cartoon: The Democrats finally give Trump a wall National Christmas Tree: 'The tear gas cannisters and razor wire are a nice touch ...' (1) Cartoons: [Left] Status update by Sisyphus: "Almost at the top, fam!" [Center] The Democrats finally give Trump a wall. [Right] National Christmas Tree: "The tear gas cannisters and razor wire are a nice touch ..."
(2) Engineering schools are getting more serious about teaching ethics: The coming dominance of autonomous and intelligent systems makes the ever-important ethics course more indispensable.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iranian folk music: Sima Bina performs an old favorite from the Caspian Sea region. [Video]
- Persian Music: A beautiful traditional piece by Darvish Khan entitled "Parichehr and Parizad." [Video]
- Humor—New book being written for Trump by his attorneys: The Art of Plea Bargain Deal
- Cartoon of the day: Dilbert gets to write a performance review for himself! [Image]
- Quote of the day: "Everything you want is on the other side of fear." ~ Jack Canfield
- For cat lovers: The $180 Mousr robot entertains your cat(s). [Source: IEEE Spectrum, December 2018]
(4) Netanyahu says attacking Iran is on the table if Israel's survival is threatened: He maintains that Khashoggi's murder, which is "shocking and horrible," must be assessed in the context of Saudi Arabia's role in regional and, hence, world stability. Netanyahu did not indicate whether detainment and torturing of women's rights activists are also necessary for regional stability. [BBC Persian report]
(5) [Follow-up to the previous item, written in reply to a Facebook commenter who objected to the part about what Netanyahu didn't say.] In politics, as in other aspects of life, much is written between the lines, which should be deduced. Politicians hedge their statements to leave themselves room for denial or re-interpretation. Reacting "within the context of world stability," as suggested by Netanyahu, means we should not sanction or otherwise apply pressure to MBS for murdering Khashoggi, because that would de-stabilize the Kingdom. Now if a gruesome murder, followed by dismemberment and packing in suitcases to remove the body from the Saudi Consulate, isn't enough to raise objection, how important are mere arrests and torture of women activists in Saudi Arabia? All dictators and their apologists resort to people's fear of insecurity and instability to justify their actions, and this includes the mullahs in Iran. As I write, 251 journalists are imprisoned worldwide and, while Turkey is still the worst offender, the number in Saudi Arabia has doubled to 16 (including 4 women who wrote about women's rights) since 2017.

2018/12/13 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Las Veras Ranch gifted to UCSB: View Las Veras Ranch gifted to UCSB: Map A wall ornament costing less than $20 brightens up my dining room (1) Miscellaneous photos: [Left & Center] The fabulous Las Veras Ranch gifted to UCSB (see Item 2 below). [Right] A wall ornament costing less than $20 brightens up my dining room.
(2) UCSB receives a major land gift: Las Varas Ranch, an 1800-acre agricultural property located 6 miles west of the UCSB campus, stretching between the Pacific Ocean (2-mile coastline) and Los Padres National Forest, has been gifted to UCSB by Charles T. Munger. For now, UCSB will keep the property as a working ranch, until the completion of consultations about its long-term use to benefit the community for generations to come.
(3) Science which is disliked by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards: Kaveh Madani, who narrowly escaped arrest when he left Iran, chimes in on the fate of detained fellow scientist Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi.
(4) Misogynistic Iranian laws: Most discriminatory laws against women were passed in the early years after the Islamic Revolution. Recent cosmetic reforms have not significantly changed the situation. This article examines the laws and the role played in their enactment by women parliamentarians.
(5) Racism personified: "Newly elected Democrats all hate white men, are Jews, Muslims, college queers, and black church ladies." ~ Conservative commentator Ann Coulter
(6) How our brain marks time: Recent neuroscience discoveries have told us about specific brain regions that deal with time-stamping of events, before they are stored away in memory. But it is still unclear how the passage of time is marked. Calendars, and the associated notions of days, weeks, months, and years, are social constructs. There are tribes on Earth that have no words for such time units and whose members are unaware of how old they are, using instead changes and crossing of life thresholds (such as menstruation or marriage) as time markers. It is conjectured that our brain does something similar. Given that philosophers and physicists are still arguing about the nature of time, we are a long way from fully understanding how our brains record and process temporal information. [Summary of New Yorker article]
(7) Iranian women are singing and playing music in record numbers, despite a multitude of governmental restrictions.The following videos from Navahang's Facebook page show the depth and diversity of talent.
- Solmaz Naraghi performs the song "Delakam" ("My Little Heart"). [1-minute video]
- Mahdieh Mohammad-Khani performs the oldie song "Bot-e Chin" ("Chinese Idol"). [1-minute video]
- An oldie song, performed by Rahaa (Raaheleh Barzegari). [1-minute video]
(8) Apple's significant expansions in sites and jobs: The plans reportedly include a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, sites in San Diego and Culver City, California, and $10 billion new investment in US data centers.

2018/12/12 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Holiday lighting displays around Riverside's Mission Inn, Photo 1 Holiday lighting displays around Riverside's Mission Inn, Photo 2 Holiday lighting displays around Riverside's Mission Inn, Photo 3 (1) My two-day visit to Riverside and its historic Mission Inn: This was a group travel event on A large Santa Barbara Airbus, filled to its 56-passenger capacity. My seat, right behind the driver, had the added benefit of easy access to community snacks! The group stopped for lunch in Old Town Pasedena, where I decided to go on a walking exploration of the area, including City Hall and other government buildings, in lieu of eating at Cheesecake Factory. Traveling from Pasadena to Riverside, I photographed snow-capped mountains and, shortly after arrival at Mission Inn, the view from my room's window. Here are a couple of night shots from my room and views of the gorgeous patio where we dined. After dinner, I walked the streets around city-block-sized Inn, photographing the elaborate lighting displays and recording street musicians playing in the area. [Video 1: Banjo player] [Video 2: Electric-guitar player (rock 'n roll)] [Video 3: Guitar player (blues)] Today, on the trip's second day, I went on a guided tour of Mission Inn. The tour included both areas that are parts of the 240-room hotel and private areas, some of which are used for meetings, weddings, and the like. The Inn, a national historical monument and a major landmark in its area, isn't a converted mission, as one might think, but was built in the mission revival style by founder Frank Miller, who inherited the property from his father. The Inn's architecture and the vast collection of art it houses are reminiscent of Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
(2) Time magazine's Person of the Year announced: It is "The Guardians," a collection of journalists, headed by Jamal Khashoggi, who have been murdered, arrested, or harassed for speaking truth to power. [Cover image]
(3) Intel unveils its new 3D packaging technology: Feasibility of 3D memories had been shown earlier, but Intel is the first to bring 3D stacking to CPUs, GPUs, and AI processors in production.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- An awful lot of witches: All the associates and family members of Trump who had contacts with Russians.
- Two Democrats, the Liar-in-Chief, and a motionless department-store dummy meet in the Oval Office.
- Climate scientists consider Trump a dangerous clown for dismissing the greatest threat our country faces.
- As labor protests continue in Iran, students who support the protests targeted by the security apparatuses.
- Baha'i businesses in Iran charged with code violation and closed down for observing a religious holiday.
- The best way to teach ethics to your children or students is to treat them ethically.
- Iran's Supreme Leader supports the Yellow-Vest protesters in France. [Cartoon, from IranWire.com]
(5) Mikhail Gorbachev writes a forceful and touching tribute to George H. W. Bush in Time magazine, issue of December 17, 2018, under the title "The War We Ended—and a Peace in Jeopardy."

2018/12/11 (Tuesday): Book review: Mundy, Liza, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Erin Bennett, Hachette Audio, 2017.
Cover image for Liza Mundy's 'Code Girls' [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
If Hidden Figures wasn't enough to convince you that women can excel at the same level as and beyond men, when given opportunities, this book will. To relate a favorite quote of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking on behalf of women, "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks."
Let me begin by comparing the book to Hidden Figures (HF), as the subject matters are quite similar. Unlike HF, CG includes a lot of detail about the actual code-breaking challenges and methods, down to the names of ciphers and design of coding machines and the algorithms they used. There is attention to the women's personal and social lives, but those aren't the primary foci. Perhaps, this was made possible by code-breaking being more intuitive than space-trajectory calculations.
World War II, with its attendant shortage of men to fill available science/technology positions, provided an opportunity for women to move away from what were then nominal careers for them (teacher, librarian, etc.) and step up to roles as scientists and engineers. In fact, the US government recruited some of the code-breakers it needed to help intercept and decode enemy messages from among math teachers, who simply assumed that a math degree for a woman meant a teaching career.
Thousands of women, recruited from small-town schools and elite women's colleges were involved in the secret American program to break German, Japanese, Italian, and other communications ciphers from our adversaries. These efforts were no less important in shortening the War and ensuring the eventual victory than the contributions of those who took up arms or made battle plans in Europe and elsewhere.
Recruiting women for code-breaking jobs had started earlier, but it took greater urgency after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The US Navy and other military branches expanded their search for talent, once the US officially entered the war. Interestingly, the branches of US military were competing in this domain and did not always share information with each other!
The women code-breakers used a combination of intuition, knowledge of math/stat, human engineering, and dogged hard work to attack each new code, sometimes taking weeks or months to break them. Mundy does provide a great deal of technical details about the secret codes and methods used to attack them. As the D-Day landing approached, the women were also charged with creating fake coded messages to mislead the axis forces about the actual attack site.
Sexism still prevailed in the military and elsewhere, as these women were helping with the war effort beyond everyone's expectations, breaking increasingly complex codes. For example, there were some who held the misguided view that women could not be trusted to keep secrets. Ironically, many of these women did not even share the nature of what they were doing with their families, and Mundy extracted information from them after providing assurances that NSA was okay with it. One person in charge of hiring women code-breakers reportedly told those who provided him with talent to send only pretty girls, because he did not want to be stuck with them after the end of the War!
Mundy's meticulous research for the book included numerous interviews with surviving code girls. The stories in this book form a nice complement to the much better-known efforts of the group at Bletchley Park, led by the British mathematician Alan Turing, which was made into a successful movie. Searching on-line, I could not find whether CG is being made into a movie. There is also no information on whether these women were honored with medals or otherwise.
Here is a 69-minute talk by the author about the book and its heroes. Mundy does mention at the very end of the Q&A period that the story has been optioned for a movie, but that there are no definite plans at this time.

2018/12/10 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB campus under unusual clouds, photo 1 UCSB campus under unusual clouds, photo 2 UCSB campus under unusual clouds, photo 3 (1) Unusual cloud formations and lighting produced these wonderful images on the UCSB Campus this evening.
(2) Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70: Every day should be human-rights day, but let's celebrate anyway by renewing our pledge to stand for rights and against all forms of injustice and disenfranchisement.
(3) A tweet for every occasion, just like Hallmark cards: About to appoint his third Chief of Staff in 2 years, Trump is being hit on the head with his 2012 tweet criticizing Obama for having 3 Chiefs of Staff (not Chief of Staffs) in less than 3 years. [Tweet image]
(4) Quote of the day: "Saudis would be speaking Farsi in about a week without US support." ~ US Senator Lindsay Graham, fear-mongering against Iran
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The "law-and-order" president will likely serve jail time for breaking campaign-finance and other laws.
- The company you keep: US joins Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to challenge climate-change report.
- Duh-worthy research conclusion: College students changing majors pay more, take longer to graduate!
- A glimpse of unusual freeways in China: Marvelous feats of engineering! [Video]
- Spell checkers can't save the illiterate and the careless: Trump's "Smocking Gun" deemed mock-worthy!
(6) Jon Meacham's eulogy for GHWB: If you did not hear presidential historian Jon Meacham speak at George H. W. Bush's funeral, this 12-minute video is for you. Don't miss this touching and humorous speech!
(7) Fasten your seat belts: The stock market is following the chaos in the White House and the inconsistent ramblings of the Idiot-in-Chief. Some analysts predict continued volatility through 2019 and a drop of about 15% before an eventual rebound.
(8) China's very advanced on-line services: According to Fareed Zakaria, on his Sunday CNN program, very few Chinese carry cash or credit cards. A smartphone-based payment system is used everywhere. You can pay merchants or individuals a sum ranging from as little as a few cents to many thousands of dollars, with a tiny fee; even beggars have gone the way of electronic payment! One reason for China's leap forward in the area of electronic payments is that credit cards never took hold there, so there isn't an establishment to oppose the lightweight, low-overhead payment system. In another domain, food can be delivered in most parts of the country in as little as 30 minutes, arriving hot and costing only about $0.70 extra. Scooter-riding Chinese do the delivery, a la Uber. When there is a shortage of delivery people, a higher compensation is announced on short notice, using artificial intelligence, bringing more people to the service.

2018/12/09 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
New York City subway at rush hour, 1950s Aerial view of NYC's Times Square, 1967 Flight attendants, 1960s (1) History in pictures: [Left] New York City subway at rush hour, 1950s. [Center] Aerial view of NYC's Times Square, 1967. [Right] Flight attendants, 1960s.
(2) Emotionally Sentient Agents: This is the cover feature of the December 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM. Emotionally aware systems that respond to social and emotional cues can be more engaging and trusted, hence the incentive to study such systems, including issues of reliability and transparency. [Image]
(3) Persian Music: Shab-e Yalda, the Iranian festival celebrating Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year, is coming in a couple of weeks. Here is a song about it.
(4) The Armenian deduk, a wonderful double-reed woodwind musical instrument made of apricot wood:
Master deduk player Andranik Mesropian demonstrates dedul with his band. [Video 1]
Jivan Gasparyan's rendition of "They Took My Love Away," a tender song, featuring multiple duduks. [Video 2]
Deduk featured at a Yanni concert. [Video 3]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- It is said that Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly is stepping down. I think the correct term is "stepping up"!
- A close look inside the International Space Station, including how the astronauts live. [25-minute video]
- The cast of "Friends," many moons ago. [Photos]
- Introducing a new musical instrument to symphony orchestras: The mechanical typewriter!
- Song and dance from Iran, featuring regional music and costumes. [Video]
(6) Fifty years ago, innovator extraordinaire Douglas Engelbart presented a demo at a technical conference that foretold today's on-line information services and preceded the Web by 20 years.
(7) College Cup's championship match: Akron, 5-1 semifinal victor over Michigan State, and Maryland, 2-0 winner over Indiana, met this afternoon for NCAA's soccer title. On the other side of Harder Stadium, across from me, are the VIP seating section (middle) and the two teams' cheering sections (left and right) [Photo]. On my side are general-admission and student seating sections. Are cameras this big really needed in the age of nanoelectronics? A UCSB musical group performed the National Anthem.
- I was expecting Akron to dominate, but Maryland had the upper hand in the scoreless first half.
- Maryland scored on a PK in the 57th minute.
- Akron presented some serious threats 15-20 minutes to the end of the game and again near the end.
- The Akron goalie was penalized for tripping a rushing forward in the 76th minute, but he saved the PK.
- Maryland claimed the NCAA soccer championship by beating Akron 1-0 and basking in the glory.

2018/12/08 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Beautiful flowers Is this a painting or a photograph? Hard to tell, given the image's low resolution. Either way, it's wonderfully composed/captured by an unknown artist Calligraphic rendering of a verse from Azeri poet Shahriar (artist unknown) (1) Beauty in nature and arts: [Left] Beautiful flowers. [Center] Is this a painting or a photograph? Hard to tell, given the image's fairly low resolution. Either way, it's wonderfully composed/captured by an unknown artist. [Right] Calligraphic rendering of a verse from Azeri poet Shahriar (artist unknown).
(2) In the end, Trump may be unseated in 2020 not by his impeachable crimes but by an economic recession, which some economists say is looming.
(3) Michelle Obama's memoir is seen as her second coming as one of the most popular Americans, launching what could become a billion-dollar brand.
(4) Trump-speak dictionary [Cartoon]: Did you know: I just found this out | People are saying: I'm making this up | We'll see what happens: I have no clue | Fake news: This makes me look bad | Believe me: I'm lying
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nine months after his firing, Tillerson vents about his legal and moral disagreements with Trump.
- Trump's lawyers are drafting response to forthcoming Mueller report.
- John Kelly, no longer on speaking terms with Trump, is expected to resign soon. (CNN)
- Foxification of the Trump administration: The boundary is quite blurred. [Chart source: Washington Post]
- Images of the InSight Mars Lander released by NASA.
- Very close to the dwarf planet Ceres in July, NASA's Dawn spacecraft zoomed in to capture these images.
- Hard to beat this robot in fixing a Rubik's Cube! [Video]
- Yodeling is taken to new heights (pun intended) by this young girl: Wonderful! [Video]
- Tehran, on a rare smog-free day. [Tweet, with photos]
- Persian music: Reza Lotfi and Naser Farhang perform Darvish Khan's "Chahar Mezrab-e Mahoor."
(6) Scam alert: Last week, I received an e-mail message from a professional friend, whom I meet often at conferences, asking me whether I could help him with something. I answered "yes." The reply was a sob story: He was out of the country and his sister had to be hospitalized for emergency surgery, requiring him to pay an up-front fee to the doctor, which he could not do from where he was. I asked the impostor to provide me with a phone number so that I could call to verify his request, stating that I would report him to authorities otherwise. The impostor's next reply, coming from a different address that I did not recognize as belonging to my friend, included an apology, indicating that all was okay with him and that he had been hacked! I cc'ed my real friend on the correspondence, to alert him of the hack and hope to hear from him soon, although if his account has been hacked, the cc's may also go to the impostor!

2018/12/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Pond in the city of Rasht, near the Caspian coast, Iran Wonderfully colorful traditional Torkaman wedding ceremony, Iran Street in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, after rain. (1) Beautiful Iran: [Left] Pond in the city of Rasht, near the Caspian coast. [Center] Wonderfully colorful traditional Torkaman wedding ceremony. [Right] Street in the central city of Isfahan, after rain.
(2) Happy 20th anniversary to ISS: On December 7, 1998, the first two International Space Station modules (Unity and Zarya) were joined together, beginning the assembly of the orbital lab.
(3) AP report: Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Qualcomm execs gathered yesterday at the White House "amid strained ties" between the Administration and the tech industry and "an ongoing trade war with China."
(4) Racism: Arizona State Rep. David Stringer is banned from one of the school districts he represents, after suggesting that only white immigrants have been successfully assimilated into American society.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Republican strategist: Trump believes he can make the law go away by tweeting at it.
- Parents who lose children to school shootings develop bonds that transcend ideology and politics. [Image]
- This year's Black Friday set an all-time sales record of $6.22 billion: One-third of it was via smartphones.
- Bad habit: Nuns embezzle half a million dollars from school, spending it on vacations and gambling.
- No cure for HIV has been found yet, but science isn't giving up. [Ad for the company XOXOScience]
- Twitter stats released—Most tweeted-about: Donald Trump. Most "liked" or quoted: Barack Obama
- Persian music: Strong feminist message in a song from a century ago. Here is part of the Persian lyrics.
- A cheerful Azeri song, performed by the Rastak Ensemble with an Azeri guest vocalist. [Video]
(6) NCAA Soccer College Cup semifinals: After the end of my office hours and a couple of oral exams, I walked to Harder Stadium to watch both College Cup semifinals (Akron v. Michigan State and Indiana v. Maryland). The championship match will be played on Sunday at 5:00 PM. Even though UCSB isn't involved this year, we hope to qualify for 2020, when the College Cup returns to Santa Barbara. [Images]
The field at UCSB's Harder Stadium was in tip-top shape, as the first semifinal match between Akron and Michigan State began. [Photos, batch 1] Akron (in white uniforms) scored in the 16th minute, when a wide-open header on a crossed ball bounced off the crossbar and was put in the net by another player. Akron scored again in the 32nd minute on a beautiful header off a corner kick. Akron's goalie saved a couple of near-certain goals in the first half, allowing his team to go into halftime break with a 2-0 lead. Akron opened the second-half scoring in the 53rd minute on a wonderfully-placed free kick from 25 yards out. Akron's fourth goal, on an unassisted run, came in the 65th minute. After some tough luck and valiant saves by Akron's goalie, Michigan State finally got through in the 79th minute, scoring in the skirmish that followed a corner kick. Akron made the final score 5-1, finding the net again on a corner kick in the 85th minute.
The second semifinal match was between Indiana and Maryland. The tournament is being broadcast on one of Fox's sports channels, so TV cameras are present, as are electronic advertising banners, marching bands, and, of course, heavy security. [Photos, batch 2] In a fairly slow, defensive first half, Maryland (in white uniforms) opened the scoring in the 37th minute on a rebound from a corner kick, holding on to its 1-0 lead at halftime. Entering the last 30 minutes of the match, Indiana was energized, trying to even up the score, while Maryland was slowing down the tempo to protect its lead. Maryland scored again in the 80th minute, prevailing 2-0 and earning the right to play Akron on Sunday for the championship. My money is on Akron. [Video snippet]

2018/12/06 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Engineering and its various subareas: Word soup (1) What's in a Discipline's Name? Thoughts on Enrollment Crisis in Electrical Engineering: During our monthly UCSB/ECE faculty lunch of Tuesday 12/04, a lively discussion ensued about the crisis facing the EE discipline, as students migrate to the more "fashionable" computer science/engineering majors. A number of quick fixes were proposed, such as a PR campaign within high schools, to inform students about career possibilities and the attendant social impact for an EE graduate, and rebranding the major by introducing terms of current interest, such as "energy," in the department's name.
In my opinion, the impact of such cosmetic changes will be limited. Many engineering majors are misnamed, because their outdated names emphasize means and gadgets (how things are/were done) rather than end results (what is done). Within the fields of computer science and engineering, this topic has been discussed from time to time, with no clear resolution.
The name "computer science/engineering," for example, emphasizes the means ("computer") rather than the end ("information"). And this is true of the names of the field's most-prominent professional organizations, IEEE Computer Society and Association for Computing Machinery. Imagine names such as "telescope science" for cosmology, "microscope science" for microbiology, "car/vehicle science" for transportation engineering, and "aircraft science" for aerospace engineering! The old name "data processing" is perhaps more descriptive than "computer science," but it is now rather dated. The Europeans' choice of "informatics" turned out to be very forward-looking.
The need for thoughtful and precise naming is also evident for subdisciplines. Careless creation of terminology has brought about various subdiscipline names that to a great extent overlap with one another and lack clear delineation and purpose. Engineers and scientists must be taught and constantly reminded about the importance of a name reflecting the precise content and boundaries of what is being named. We are deluged with new terms such as "cyber-physical systems," "big data," "cloud computing," "fog computing," and "wireless sensor networks," most of which will fade, like so many of their predecessors.
Returning to my original point, what we now call "electrical engineering" at UCSB is really a collection of four subject areas that would be better called "information engineering," "material engineering," "communications engineering," and "control engineering," with each of the four areas overlapping with the activities and specialties in our other engineering departments; Other EE/ECE departments may also be concerned with "energy engineering." Electricity is no longer a defining attribute of these endeavors.
Isn't it time we organized engineering by ends rather than means?
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mike Pence lies just as readily as Donald Trump, but he is less obvious about it!
- When thugs high-five each other and their stooge watches wistfully, because he's been told not to join in!
- Fatalities and dozens of injuries reported in suicide attack on a police post in the Iranian city of Chabahar.
- Huawei executive arrested by Canadian authorities, on US's request, for violating sanctions against Iran.
- How unsuspecting US veterans were used to funnel money from Saudi Arabia to the Trump Organization.
- Independent press? Fox News' Sean Hannity tells potential witnesses to criminal acts not to talk to FBI.
(3) Michael Flynn court document is the tip of a huge iceberg: His cooperation with Mueller apparently has aided a couple of secret investigations about which we don't know much.

2018/12/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of 'Santa Barbara Independent' about the 2018 College Cup NCAA Soccer Cup 2018 logo Soccer action from a past College Cup (1) NCAA College Cup in Santa Barbara: Even though UCSB is not participating this year (it was eliminated early on), the top four men's soccer teams will be coming to town to play the semifinals (Friday, 12/7, 5:00 PM and 7:45 PM) and the final match (Sunday, 12/9, 5:00 PM). I will be going to all three games. The semifinals pairings are as follows. Akron, which beat Stanford 3-2, will play Michigan State, 2-1 victor over James Madison, at 5:00 PM. In the 7:45 PM match, Indiana, which prevailed over Notre Dame 1-0, will face Maryland, 1-0 victor over Kentucky. This is the second time UCSB hosts the College Cup and will do it again in December 2020 (the 2019 edition will be in Cary, NC). One reason for UCSB being favored by NCAA is its perennially strong soccer program and the large, enthusiastic crowds it attracts from among students and other Santa Barbara residents, shattering NCAA attendance records and gaining UCSB the nickname "Soccer Heaven."
(2) Today's funeral service for George H. W. Bush at Washington Cathedral was very dignified and full of interesting anecdotes and great humor. Perhaps only events like this can bring us Americans together, but we can't wish for more of them. RIP!
(3) ACM 2018 Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct: Almost all professional organizations develop and maintain an ethics code, spelling out the expected behavior of their members. Association for Computing Machinery's previous code, adopted in 1992, is being revised this year. The third draft of the new code is now available for previewing and comments.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- We need to restore faith in science, as the anti-vaxxer movement gains additional adherents.
- Researcher detained in Iran: Mullahs deem scholars in demography and population studies seditionists.
- Cartoon of the day: "People don't grasp the short-term consequences of saving the planet!" [Image]
- East-meets-West music: Casbah Shuffle on sitar, by Ashwin Batish (Sitar Power Band). [14-minute video]
- Ara Malikian performs "Misirlou" (the 1963 song, which was used as the theme of the movie "Pulp Fiction").
- Apt reminder, as we feast during the holidays, to open our hearts and wallets to the needy and the hungry.
- For every problem, there is an ingenious solution: Some methods of opening locked home or car doors.
(5) An unusual day in Goleta: We had periods of wind-driven rain that made an umbrella all but useless. The rain continued, at a gentler pace, as I took this photo of the Devereux Slough in the evening. I had my last classes for the quarter and will be done with teaching after my final exam on Monday and some grading tasks.

2018/12/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An unusually clear view of the SB Channel Islands from the UCSB campus (due to high winds) The top half of the Christmas tree at the Camino Real Marketplace Useful gadget: Video doorbell that records hours of video and communicates with a smartphone app, photographed at Goleta Costco (1) Today in Goleta, CA: [Left] An unusually clear view of the SB Channel Islands from the UCSB campus. [Center] The top half of the Christmas tree at the Camino Real Marketplace. [Right] Useful gadget: Video doorbell that records hours of video and communicates with a smartphone app, photographed at Goleta Costco.
(2) Mind-boggling predictions for the next 7 billion years: Take these 41 predictions with a grain of salt. They range from the Jeddah Tower becoming the tallest building in the world in 2020, through completion of Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid in Tokyo in 2110 and Chernobyl becoming habitable once again in the year 20,000, to the Earth being sucked by a vastly expanded Sun in 7.59 billion years, ending all life as we know it.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Massive ground-beef recall: More than 12M lbs, with "EST. 267" stamped inside the USDA inspection mark.
- Trump cannot win the fight he started against General Motors, says Robert Reich in this opinion piece.
- Trump tries to hijack the Paris protests: He claims the protesters chant that they want Trump!
- Trump inflames or creates problems and later claims credit for half-baked solutions to those problems.
- A least-surprising revelation: MBS ordered and monitored the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- California's Camp Fire "burns" an insurance company, whose liabilities are nearly three times its assets.
(4) Rising budget deficits during an economic boom: The US budget deficit ballooned after the 2008 crash, to save the economy. Then, it began declining, as the economy improved. Now, despite continued economic growth, deficits are rising, a highly unusual occurrence in good economic times.
(5) A robot in space: The spherical AI robot CIMON aboard the International Space Station communicates with IBM's Watson on Earth, so it can engage with the ISS crew. In one trial, CIMON identified and recognized an astronaut's face, took photos and video, positioned itself autonomously within a module via ultrasonic sensors, and issued instructions for the crew member to perform an experiment.
(6) Kronos Quartet, featuring Mahsa Vahdat: An amazing concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight! [Images] The program, "Music for Change: The Banned Countries," included selections from Azerbaijan, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Mali, and several pieces from Iran, including a Kurdish encore, all arranged in the Quartet's unique musical style. Ms. Vahdat performed some of her own compositions based on poems by Hafez and Mowlavi (Rumi). Video recording was disallowed, so here's similar music from YouTube. [Mahsa Vahdat's "Dorna" and "Avaaz-e Shoushtari"] [Kronos Quartet's "Tiny Desk Concert"]

2018/12/03 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
32-legged robot, built by Japan's Keio and Tokyo Universities Cartoon: Social-media bullying and hate speech are on the rise, thanks to the Bully-and-Insulter-in-Chief! Types of nuts, excluding nuts like me and you! (1) Tech-related images: [Left] This 32-legged robot, built by Japan's Keio and Tokyo Universities, can move in any direction by extending, retracting, and bending its legs. It is ideal for planetary explorations and disaster-zone operations. (Image credit: IEEE Spectrum magazine) [Center] Social-media bullying and hate speech are on the rise, thanks to the Bully-and-Insulter-in-Chief! [Right] Types of nuts, excluding nuts like me and you!
(2) Spelling- and grammar-challenged people aren't safe in cyber-space: Rudy Giuliani failed to insert a space after a period, thus inadvertently creating a link to "G-20.In" within his tweet. Someone claimed that URL and posted a derogatory comment about Trump, to be seen by anyone who clicks on the link! [Tweet image]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Prosecutors say former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy received laundered foreign money.
- Chelsea Clinton posted this photo of her family with George H. W. Bush, recalling his decency and kindness.
- Humor: "It's now 2018; that's the highest-number year under any president!" ~ Donald John Trump
- Quote: "You don't lead by hitting people over the head—that's assault, not leadership." ~ Dwight Eisenhower
- Persian music: Mahsa Vahdat performs "Dorna" (traditional vocal style in a modern musical framework).
(4) Book review: Gilbert, Elizabeth, The Signature of All Things: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Juliet Stevenson, Penguin Audio, 2013. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for Elizabeth Gilbert's 'The Signature of All Things' With this book, Gilbert returns to fiction, producing another typically delightful book. The characters are so carefully researched and elaborately described that the story, unfolding in the 18th and 19th centuries, reads like a historical treatise.
The central character is Alma, the bright daughter of Henry Whittaker, a man who went from rags (in England) to riches (in Philadelphia). Alma, with her curious mind and insatiable appetite for knowledge, ultimately becomes a botanist and falls in love with Ambrose Pike, another curious soul who is an orchid-painting utopian artist. Alma and Ambrose share a passion for understanding the workings of our world and the wonders of life.
Quite a few other characters and diverse geographic locales appear in the story, adding to its richness, as it explores deep ideas in science, religion, and commerce, and how these notions influenced the course of human history. An enjoyable read that also teaches the reader a great deal!
(5) Final thought for the day: G-mail now offers suggested replies to e-mails you receive ("smart replies"), as if we need to become even more machine-like in our interpersonal communications.

2018/12/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Skateboarding in New York City, 1965 Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, 1861 Albert Einstein lecturing on relativity, 1922 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Skateboarding in New York City, 1965 (Credit: Life magazine). [Center] Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, 1861. [Right] Albert Einstein lecturing on relativity, 1922.
(2) Happy Hanukkah to all who observe the Jewish Festival of Light. Hanukkah, which begins tonight, comes around Christmas, but the exact date fluctuates due to Hebrew calendar's lunar year being about 11 days shorter than our solar year. Jewish holidays fluctuate, rather than move throughout the year, because every 2-3 years (7 times in each 19-year cycle, to be exact), an extra month is added to the calendar to put it back in step with the seasons and the Grogorian calendar. There are also occasional one-day adjustments to two other calendar months to prevent certain Jewish holidays from falling on specific days of the week. Therefore, a common Jewish year may have three different lengths: 353, 354, 355 days. The 13-month "leap year" also has three possible lengths: 383, 384, 385 days. TimeandDate.com has an article on "The Jewish Leap Year."
(3) Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is being investigated for sexual misconduct: The alleged conducts are serious, and, if proven true, inexcusable. I like Tyson's wit and his efforts to bring science to the masses. But we can't have different standards for people we like and those we disdain. I will follow up on this story and will post again when I learn more.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Defense Secretary Mattis reveals that there is evidence Putin tried to interfere in our midterm elections.
- Paul Manfort could face more charges, increasing his jail time and the probability of turning against Trump.
- Mexicans outraged: Jared Kushner is awarded Mexico's highest honor, the Order of the Aztec Eagle.
- National Geographic's best photos of 2018 (curated): A feast for you eyes and mind.
- Persian music: The pop duo Andy and Kouros perform "Niloufar" on a concert stage.
- A beautiful performance, with masterful solos, of a piece by Niccolo Paganini at the Venice Carnival.
(5) For-profit conferences: Just like pay-to-publish journals which do little for scientific progress but fill the pockets of their publishers through "open-access publication fees," conferences are proliferating around the world to make money and to generate fake honors for their organizers and scores of people typically included on their technical program committees. By sending e-mails exemplified in the following fragment (copied verbatim from one of the many invitations I receive weekly), they stroke potential participants' egos, often in very poor English, to lure them into submitting papers and paying the conference fees.
"We came across your research work. You are a frontier with a multitude of experience and skill who can offer an in-depth explanation of the advancements and innovations. ... We wish to have your gracious presence as a Speaker to give an Oral presentation at our upcoming, Joint Conference on ..."

2018/12/01 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An isolated and despised Trump at the G20 Summit Cartoon: He's making a list ... Checking it now ... Gotta find out who's naughty and how ... Robert Mueller's coming to town! New Yorker cartoon: Christmas spirit at the White House (1) Trump-related meme and cartoons: [Left] Trump looked ill-at-ease at the G20 Summit (see item 2 below). [Center] Song of the season: He's making a list ... Checking it now ... Gotta find out who's naughty and how ... Robert Mueller's coming to town! [Right] Christmas spirit at the White House (from The New Yorker).
(2) An isolated and despised Trump at the G20 Summit: Previously, Trump cancelled his meeting with Putin at the G20, blaming Russia's actions in Ukraine. Days after the said actions, until he boarded AF1 to fly to the Summit, he was still saying the two would meet. Only after news broke that Michael Cohen had admitted to lying about his Russia connections did Trump cancel. Now, Trump has cancelled his G20 press conference, citing respect for the Bush family. Since when has he developed this respect? His tweets certainly show no respect for 41, or 43, or 41's other son. Isn't the cancellation due to the fact that he would be asked about Bush, and Putin, and he did not know what to say?
(3) Persian Music: Some early Iranian films were referred to as "aabgooshti movies," because they invariably contained scenes of the protagonist (a man, of course) eating aabgoosht, a popular traditional lamb stew/soup in Iran. Here is a lighthearted song praising aabgoosht and the usual sides that go with it.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- George H. W. Bush, the one-term 41st US President, dies at 94 in Kennebunkport, ME.
- Famous inventions: Dunlop patented the inflatable tire in December 1888 (130 years ago). [Video]
- Some road hazards can be avoided by not driving behind or near vehicles carrying large, awkward loads.
- Humor: One way to force rude young men to yield their seats to a blind girl! [Video]
- Hilarious comedy skit: Conan O'Brien rents a family in Japan and trains the members to laugh at his jokes.
- Mohammad Nouri sings the beautiful oldie "Nazanin-e Maryam" ("Beloved Maryam") in this 9-minute video.
(5) Artificial intelligence is changing the legal industry: Asked whether he could see a day when AI-driven smart machines will assist with courtroom fact-finding or, more controversially even, judicial decision-making, Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts responded: "It's a day that's here and it's putting a significant strain on how the judiciary goes about doing things." This CACM article discusses whether AI judges and juries, with unemotional Vulcan-like reasoning and deduction abilities, are coming to our judicial system.
(6) Tonight's concert by UCSB Middle East Ensemble at Lotte Lehman Concert Hall: The Ensemble is marking its 30th year of activity. The program included Arabic music and dance, along with selections from Armenia, Jewish-Morocco, and Iran. [Photos] The following four videos are represntative of the diverse program.
Video 1: Armenian song/dance, "Khorotik Morotik" ("Flirtatious Love"), with solo vocalist Varduhi Sargsyan.
Video 2: Arabic solo dance, by guest performer Laura Leyl, set to the instrumental composition "Raqs Layla."
Video 3: Armenian song, known as "Sari Aghchik" ("Mountain Girl") or "Vard Sireci" ("I Loved a Rose").
Video 4: Persian dance, choreographed by Shahrzad Khorsandi, set to Mahshid Mirzadeh's "Seh Andarz."

2018/11/30 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Above Valley Falls, West Virginia. Sunset in Izmir, Turkey Bluebell season, England (1) Best Earth Pics: [Left] Above Valley Falls, West Virginia. [Center] Sunset in Izmir, Turkey. [Right] Bluebell season, England.
(2) Missing the good-old days, when small-scale data breaches were considered big news: Now, half a billion Marriott customer accounts are compromised and no one even blinks!
(3) Scientists are trusted to accurately land a craft on Mars but are considered wrong on climate change by a real-estate developer who claims to have a really large brain. [Tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson]
(4) My home-office: Here is a panoramic view of my study from where I sit at my computer workstation. These photos, taken last night and today, show my study, with a minimalist decorative holiday tree and the two small walls, not covered with bookcases, holding my beloved family photos and various useful maps.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California communities devastated by the deadliest fire in state's history are now coping with flash floods.
- Magnitude-7.0 earthquake rocks Anchorage, Alaska, causing major infrastructure damage. [CNN video]
- Sheryl Sandberg was indeed involved in ordering dirt-digging on George Soros and other Facebook critics.
- Thinking outside the box: How about putting airbags outside as well as inside cars to make crashes safer?
- Persian music: A tribute slide show to the late Mohammad Nouri, featuring his signature song "Nemisheh."
- Oldest depiction of Jesus discovered in the ruined baptistery of the northern church in desert of Shivta.
(6) The power of suggestion: Payless Shoes conducted a social experiment, creating the "Palessi" fictional brand and marking up their $20-$40 shoes about twenty-fold in a shoe boutique. Customers actually bought the obscenely-priced shoes. They got a refund at the end and also got to keep the shoes. Brilliant marketing!
(7) Final thought for the day: "There are many jobs that you can do, and do them well, while believing that the Earth is flat or 6000 years old, but if these are your beliefs, you should not head NASA or be in Congress." ~ Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in an interview with PBS, aired tonight on "Firing Line" (not an exact quote; reproduced from memory)

2018/11/29 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Germany, 1930s; Iran, 2010s; America, ? Image from NYT article on dwindling insect populations Cartoon: Striking workers in Iran are seeking, and not getting much, solidarity from their fellow Iranians (1) Iran-related cartoons from Iranwire.com, and another cautionary tale from science: [left] Germany, 1930s; Iran, 2010s; America, ? [Center] Image from NYT article on dwindling insect populations (see item 2 below). [Right] Striking workers in Iran are seeking, and not getting much, solidarity from their fellow Iranians.
(2) Why our car windshields are no longer killing grounds for a vast array of insects? Is it because insect populations are dwindling? A joint study by universities in Denmark and the US recruited 200 Danes to drive through a variety of habitats, with their windshields replaced by nets, to test this hypothesis. It is indeed true that insects have fallen prey to a massive loss of biodiversity on Earth, the so-called "Sixth Extinction." Read the highly detailed account, with ample references to previous studies about the trend and its potential impacts on our lives, in this New York Times article.
(3) Genetically-edited twins born: A Chinese scientist, who claims to have been involved in producing the first human beings (twin baby girls) born with edited genomes, is facing skepticism and criticism. Of course, the feasibility of such a feat isn't in doubt, but ethical considerations had prevented other scientists from attempting gene-editing on humans. It is the background of the Chinese scientist, who had never before presented his work publicly, save for a handful of YouTube videos, that fuels the skepticism.
(4) An interesting account of what's in store for NASA's new Mars lander, before it begins its explorations in a few months, and why it takes so long to get started. [Space.com article]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump is stuck in 19th-century mining/manufacturing jobs, while businesses want to pivot toward high-tech.
- Trump floats the idea of pardoning Manafort; others doubt he'd be willing to pay the huge political cost.
- Trump's former attorney/fixer admits to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Russia.
- Apt response to Trump's "I don't believe it" reaction to his administration's climate-change impact report.
- At last: Heavy rain in Santa Barbara! [Photos, from Thursday, November 29]
(6) These figures (with captions) from an article published in the October 2018 issue of IEEE Computer tell an interesting story about how women have been viewed/treated in computing, to the detriment of our country. [Citation: Hicks, Marie, "When Winning Is Losing: Why the Nation that Invented the Computer Lost Its Lead," IEEE Computer, Vol. 51, No. 10, pp. 48-57, October 2018.]

2018/11/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump and evangelicals: Strange bedfellows (cartoon) Trump to Merkel: 'You guys in Berlin had a terrific wall.' (Cartoon)  Meme of the day: Clown Prince Donald bin Fred al Trump (1) Trump-related humor: [Left] Trump and evangelicals: Strange bedfellows. [Center] Trump to Merkel: "You guys in Berlin had a terrific wall." [Right] Meme of the day: Clown Prince Donald bin Fred al Trump.
(2) Robots to the rescue: Walking and swimming robots are used to investigate Fukushima's failed reactors to find out where the fuel (lethal for centuries) has gone. The robots help produce 3D virtual-reality models of the reactors' insides for humans to explore. The site has turned into a robotics research laboratory. [CBS report]
(3) Whose life was ruined? Brett Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court and has gone back to coaching girls' basketball. Christine Blasey-Ford continues to receive death threats.
(4) Disdain for science: Donald Trump and his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismiss the findings of a climate report issued over the Thanksgiving weekend, based on the work of 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies. We have a President who acts as his own economic adviser, climate scientist, and diplomatic corps!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US midterm election results were a mixed bag for science: A number of senior, experienced lawmakers who were champions of research funding were ousted.
- Thin-skinned President walks away when fact-checked by a CBS reporter.
- Shahrzad Nazifi, a Baha'i and the first female motocross champion in Iran, has been arrested.
- The Age of Megafires: A prophetic report, first aired 11 years ago by CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes"!
- A wonderful performance of "Despacito" by a piano-cello duo.
- Amazon patents an airbag that is inflated by a drone before dropping a package for delivery.
- This 2-year-old time-lapse video from NASA shows the disappearing arctic ice over the period 1991-2016.
- Most-dangerous countries to visit: I was surprised to learn that nearly all parts of Iran are rated very safe.
(6) To Kill a Mockingbird: The beloved novel is becoming a Broadway play for a modern audience, to open in December, 58 years after the book was published and 56 years after the release of a successful movie based on it. Jeff Daniels will play attorney Atticus Finch, the role that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar. [CBS report]

2018/11/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster: Stop violence against women! The art of rock-balancing: A giant foot Breaking the chains, on the way to freedom (1) An important cause, and some art: [Left] The most dangerous place for women is home: More than half of worldwide female murder victims last year were killed by their partners or family members, according to a new UN report. [Center] The art of rock-balancing: Giant foot in Zurich, Switzerland (artist unknown; photographed by Ms. Shirin Dabir). [Right] Breaking the chains, on the way to freedom.
(2) Cities used to burn to the ground all the time until the 1920s: Then, we started to do the equivalent of vaccination by developing fire codes and using fire-resistant building materials. Once cities stopped burning, we grew complacent and wavered in strict enforcement of fire codes. It's time to go back to the drawing board and use the knowledge we have gained to avoid another Paradise-like catastrophe.
(3) WSJ Econ 101: Trump boasts that his new tariffs are pouring money into the US coffers, not knowing, or conveniently forgetting, that those same tariffs lead to higher prices, a form of regressive tax on all Americans.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Major snowstorm causes thousands of flight cancellations in United States' Midwest region.
- Firing of tear gas and closing of US entry escalate the crisis at US-Mexico border.
- Magnitude-6.3 quake in Iran, centered near Sarpol-e Zahab, injures hundreds in Kermanshah and vicinity.
- The prophetic film "Network" comes to the stage: Artistic version of "Fake News" by playwright Lee Hall!
- Humor: When the pool's on-duty lifeguard has to take a bathroom break! [Video]
- Azeri music: Wonderful song performed by the Rastak Ensemble, accompanied by a guest singer. [Video]
- Persian music: Two young girls perform (violin and vocals) the oldie song "Simin Bari" on a street in Tehran.
- Persian Music: Beautiful oldie, performed with smiles and joy. The performers are unknown to me. [Video]
(5) "First Man," a "Script to Screen" presentation at UCSB's Pollock Theater: The acclaimed 2018 film, telling the story of America's space program in the decade leading to the 1969 moon landing, was screened tonight, followed by a moderated discussion with its Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer. The film is based on James R. Hansen's book by the same title. The film's central character is Neil Armstrong. Even though there is admirable attention to technical details, with eye-popping special effects, the real focus of the film is the emotional travails of Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling), as well as other astronauts and their families, when faced with intensive training and high-risk space missions. A flyer along with a few pages of the screenplay were distributed to the audience. [Images]

2018/11/26 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Mars landing: After its 7-month journey from Earth and 7-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere, the landing module of NASA's InSight Probe touched down on Mars just before noon, PST, today. A manned mission to Mars for the 2030s is said to be in planning stages. [Video]
(2) US State Department report: Khashoggi's problems first arose not because he criticized Saudi leaders, but because he criticized Donald Trump. This explains Trump's weak reaction to the gruesome killing.
(3) Informatics Society of Iran (ISI) turns 40: This momentous anniversary was celebrated last Wednesday, 2018/11/21, in Tehran. As the lead founder of the Society in 1978 and its President for the first 5 years of its existence, I was asked to send a special message to its members. [2-minute Persian video message]
This Google Drive contains a number of videos related to Informatics Society of Iran's 40th-anniversary celebration. Titles of and inks to individual MP4 Persian-language videos on the drive follow. [Introducing ISI] [Message from Dr. Parhami] [ISI Teaser] [ISI Reminiscences] [ISI Activities]
(4) Applying ML & NLP at Google Ads: This was the title of a talk by Dr. Kazoo Sone (Google software engineer) on machine learning and natural-language processing, as applied at Google Ads.
Dr. Sone discussed the difficulties of supervised learning, in view of its need for vast amounts of labeled data. Even though it appears that Google does enjoy access to vast amounts of data, the portion of the data that is labeled is often inadequate for training strong supervised learning models. Using examples from quality improvement efforts for search ads, Dr. Sone described some of Google's challenges and experiences, both from the machine-learning perspective and the NLP research that links an ad's performance to its writing style, particularly what words in ads influence our decision-making. [Some slides]
One annoying feature of such talks is that a lot of buzzwords are thrown around and claims made, with little technical depth. This is a direct consequence of companies wanting to hold on to technical know-how for fear of rivals using the knowledge, which is utterly incompatible with a university's mission to spread knowledge.
(5) UCSB Faculty Research Lecture: Each year, a UCSB colleague is honored as Faculty Research Lecturer and tasked with delivering a public lecture to describe his/her leading-edge discoveries to the campus community. The 2018 honoree, my ECE colleague Professor Umesh K. Mishra, spoke at Corwin Pavilion this afternoon under the title "Thank God for Gallium Nitride."
The development of blue and white LEDs by Nobel Laureate and UCSB colleague Shuji Nakamura generated much excitement about Gallium Nitride (GaN), whose applications have spread beyond general lighting to lasers, horticulture, and electronics. Hybrid and electric vehicles, data servers, solar inverters, robotics, gaming, and communications across a large band of interests are all being served by GaN in important ways.
Professor Mishra described his research results on GaN and its varied applications, characterizing it as the miracle material that keeps on giving. Borrowing a phrase from former President Obama, the speaker ended his talk with the slogan "Yes We GaN"! [Some slides]

2018/11/25 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 1 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 2 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 3 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 4 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 5 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 6 (1) Isfahan Festival: Locals don traditional costumes and demonstrate arts/crafts for which Isfahan is famous.
(2) About town on a beautiful sunny Sunday: Having lunch with the kids at Hamburger Habit in Isla Vista, photographing the birds of the US Pacific Coast at Campus Poing Beach and UCSB Lagoon, and capturing the beauty of the southeastern end of the UCSB campus in photos and a 1-minute video.
(3) Beautiful Iran: This time-lapse video captures Isfahan's sights and culture. By the number of items I have posted about Isfahan, you can probably tell that I have an Isfahani friend feeding me videos and other posts about the historic city!
(4) Music/dance video: This French tune entitled "Natalie" was quite popular in Iran during my youth. In it, the singer reminisces about a beautiful guide he had when he visited Moscow's Red Square.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudi Arabia joins Trump in spreading doubts about CIA's credibility.
- Words and actions from "The Lion King" versus "The Lying King": Some similarities. [Video]
- Hi-tech transportation: The airplane that transports airplanes! [Video]
- Lo-tech transportation: Transporting sheep on a bicycle! [Video]
- Quote: "When you feel dog-tired at night, it may be because you've growled all day long." ~ Anonymous
- Final thought for the day: "There are as many martyrs for bad causes as for good ones." ~ Anonymous

2018/11/24 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Our perfect-attendance photo with all 18 family members present, taken today as part of Thanksgiving-weekend gathering (1) Perfect-attendance photo with all family members present, taken today as part of Thanksgiving gathering.
- My mom, the 89-year-old family matriarch, with all of her 7 grandkids and both great-grandkids. [Photo]
- My mom photographed separately with each of her 4 children, alongside his/her family. [Photo collection]
(2) With light-weight material, spraying particles into the Earth's atmosphere or installing space reflectors may prove feasible in a decade or two for slowing down global warming.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Anti-government protests turn violent in Paris: Police fires tear gas into the crowd. [Images]
- Chilling repetition of history: The "failing" New York Times was at it, spreading "Fake News," 80 years ago.
- Subject explains global warming to know-it-all King. [Tweet images]
- IEEE uses a photo from its Iran Section (or is it Turkey?) in its campaign to attract more student members.
- Quote of the day: "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved." ~ George Macdonald
- "My warning about social media has had 50,000 retweets." [Cartoon credit: E&T magazine, Nov. 2018]
(4) Serendipitous learning: The freshman seminar I teach this quarter meets in UCSB's Humanities and Social Sciences Building. Walking to class and having a few minutes to kill one day last week, I looked at a few posters on the hallway's walls. This particular poster reports on a study that demonstrates positive correlation between milk DHA levels and PISA math scores in 26 nations, once statistically controlled for per-capita GDP.
(5) Final thought for the day: "Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out." ~ Sydney Smith

2018/11/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Woke up to a sunny post-Thanksgiving Friday, with gorgeous blue skies: Nothing black about it! Mount Damavand, a dormant volcano which is Iran's tallest peak, shot from Poloor by an anonymous friend My daughter's apple-pie creation for Thanksgiving (1) Beauty, natural and human-made: [Left] Woke up to a sunny post-Thanksgiving Friday, with gorgeous blue skies: Nothing black about it! [Center] Mount Damavand, a dormant volcano which is Iran's tallest peak, shot from Poloor by an anonymous friend. [Right] My daughter's apple-pie creation for Thanksgiving.
(2) The Bully-in-Chief hears back from many Twitter users about his stance that lower oil prices are more important than holding Saudi Arabia accountable for its crimes. [Tweet image]
(3) Advice to MBS: Don't delude yourself that you are safe because Trump stands by you and even thanks you! The American people and the rest of the world will hold you accountable.
(4) Iran's Mountain-Climbing Association (a government entity) has announced that women need permission from their husbands or male guardians before going hiking or climbing.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CIA may have recording of MBS ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- The lies continue to pile up! [Trump lied when he said CIA didn't link Saudi Prince to Khashoggi killing."]
- Deadly wildfires, hurricanes, and heat waves, already battering the United States, will worsen over time.
- Isaac Larian: Man who left the Iran's slums as a teen now runs one of America's biggest toy companies.
- iPad magic: There are quite a few digital-magic-trick videos like this one on the Internet.
- Quote: "A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel good." ~ Comedian Steven Wright
(6) Facebook knew about Russians interfering in US election more than a year before publicly admitting it: Then it hired a PR firm to control the damage and dig dirt on critics.
(7) Trump calls reports about his displeasure with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin "Fake News," adding that they never ask him about such cases, because it would ruin their stories.
No, Donald; they don't ask you because you lie!
(8) Beliefs of Brits and British Christians: The only subject about which Brits as a whole are more positive than the Christians among them is alien-life/UFOs. On karma and magic, there is little difference between Brits and British Christians. [Chart from E&T magazine, issue of November 2018]

2018/11/22 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
John Wayne at 23 years old, 1930 The Beatles, on stage in Paris, 1965 Young Clint Eastwood, undated photo (1) Film and music history in pictures: [Left] John Wayne at 23 years old, 1930. [Center] The Beatles, on stage in Paris, 1965. [Right] Young Clint Eastwood, undated photo.
(2) Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my family members and friends, especially to my three children. May you all have an abundance of things for which to be thankful and may our relationships and friendships have better fates than the Thanksgiving-Day turkey! [Image]
(3) It's official now: The 2018 US midterm election results saw Republicans suffer the worst House defeat in US history. [Source: Newsweek magazine]
(4) Jeff Sessions is no hero: It's tempting to praise Sessions, because he stood up to Trump on certain issues and was bullied by him. But examining his record as AG leaves no doubt that he is a regressive individual living in the past and wanting to reverse decades of US civil rights gains.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Samsung is investing heavily on its foldable smartphone: Apple is sure to follow suit. [Source: Newsweek]
- Iran exevutes the "Gold-Coins King": He must have stepped on the toes of other grand thieves! [Cartoon]
- Teachers' strike in Iran leads to a wave of arrests.
- Female singers, who are banned by Iran's government, hold underground concerts through acquaintances.
(6) Chief of Staff John Kelly accused Fox News' Jeanine Pirro of "inflaming an already vexed Trump," when she told him in the Oval Office that he should get the DoJ to investigate H. Clinton for the Uranium One deal.
(7) Pot calling the kettle black: Turkish officials have condenmned the "comical" Trump stance on MBS. Of course, Turkey scarecely has a better human-rights record than Saudi Arabia.
(8) Persian music: Much of the pre-Islamic-Revolution music and other art forms are no longer shown on Iran's state TV, but people recuperate and cherish them in private gatherings and, when they can, on the streets.
(9) Persian music: Hossein Khajeh-Amiri, aka Iraj, and Salar Aghili perform "Aavaay-e Iran" ("The Voice of Iran") in this 6-minute video production sponsored by the Export Bank of Iran. [Other credits in the video]

2018/11/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
More heart-wrenching scenes from November 2018 California wildfires: Photo 1 More heart-wrenching scenes from November 2018 California wildfires: Photo 2 More heart-wrenching scenes from November 2018 California wildfires: Photo 3 (1) Three more heart-wrenching photos from November 2018 California wildfires.
(2) Advice about tech and social media: People sound tough and in control, but they are scared and confused behind the fake facade. We should take control of our lives back from constant distraction by non-stop connectivity. [10-minute video, with Persian subtitles]
(3) Middle-age American men are threatened more by loneliness than by consequences of obesity or smoking: A 2017 Boston Globe article, expertly translated into Persian by Farnaz Seifi.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump wanted to order the DoJ to prosecute H. Clinton and J. Comey, but his lawyers wouldn't comply.
- A new breed of legislators arrive in Washington, ready to swim with and defeat swamp creatures! [Tweet]
- Report: Religion is blamed for violence against women. Me: Duh! [Source: Newsweek magazine]
- Cartoon of the day: Natural disasters hit California! [Image]
- Pinpointing one of our dilemmas: "Knowledge is power. Ignorance is bliss. Tough choice!" ~ Anonymous
- Humor: Perils of traveling abroad without knowing the local language. [1-minute video]
- Santa Barbara in late November: Today, on the east side of the UCSB Campus. [Photos]
- Fortune cookies have been giving me wonderful advice of late: "Delight in a friend's success." [Images]
(5) Quote of the day: "The myth holds that Trump is a tough guy who fights back. In fact, he is a fragile man running out of safe places to hide." ~ Author and CNN commentator Michael D'Antonio
(6) The Holiday Season is upon us and, with it, come holiday scams followed by tax scams (fraudulently filing your taxes and getting your refund). Be particularly vigilant with your charity donations over the next month, as scammers position themselves to take advantage of the holiday spirit.
(7) Human-rights report: Saudi Arabia electrocuted, flogged, and sexually abused female activists. Meanwhile, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, Trump has indicated that he is grateful to Saudis for helping lower oil prices. How low have we sunk as a nation to thank murderous thugs for saving us a few cents on a gallon of gas?
(8) Trump attacks the judiciary again: "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges." ~ Chief SCOTUS Justice John Roberts, after Trump berated a judge as "an Obama Judge" (Trump dismissed Roberts comments in subsequent tweets)

2018/11/20 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Example of devastation from California wildfires Brexit commemorative 50p coin Humor: Californians take Trump's suggestions to heart! (1) Reality and some political humor: [Left] Example of devastation from California wildfires. [Center] Brexit commemorative 50p coin. [Right] Preventing wildfires: Californians take Trump's suggestions to heart!
(2) After dissing the late Senator John McCain for being captured, bone-spurs Donnie attacks highly decorated retired Admiral William McRaven for not killing Osama Bin Laden sooner. Are our military leaders asleep? Why are they putting up with this nonsense?
(3) Quote of the day: "The old cliche about laughter being the best medicine turns out to be true, which is good because that's what the current administration is trying to replace Obamacare with." ~ Julia Louis-Dreyfus, while accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in October 2018
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Private e-mail account: Let's recycle Trump's old tweets, with Hilary Clinton replaced by Ivanka Trump.
- WH staff is bracing for tweetstorms during Trump's unsupervised time at Mar-a-Lago over Thanksgiving.
- Alarm bells go off as a Kremlin-backed Russian becomes one of two nominees to run Interpol.
- CDC issues an unusually broad warning against eating romaine lettuce in any form and from any source.
- Cartoon Collections: If you like New Yorker's cartoons, this Web site, has many of those, and more.
- I have been following this fortune-cookie advice for several years now and it seems to be working!
- Beautiful Azeri music and dance: No info about performers or venue. [4-minute video]
- Iranian Music: Sepidar Ensemble performs Qajar-era music in a historic palace setting. [27-minute video]
(5) Because of his hatred toward Iran, Trump stands by murderous MBS: "In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran."
(6) It's now certain the WH Chief of Staff John Kelly will be replaced: Ivanka, Jared, and Trump's two sons have their favorite (Mike Pence's young Chief of Staff), but Kelly has his supporters among WH insiders too.

2018/11/19 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Multi-player computer game from the 1990s Fireman's bicycle, 1905 Car hi-fi system, 1960 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Multi-player computer game from the 1990s. [Center] Fireman's bicycle, 1905. [Right] Car hi-fi system, 1960s.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mitch McConnell takes hypocrisy to the next level by accusing Democrats of partisan politics. [Quotes]
- Leaked SMS texts from an insecure Voxox server exposed password resets and two-factor codes.
- Persian Music: A beautiful performance of the golden oldie "Beh Esfahan Ro" ("Go to Isfahan").
- This little girl won't let no freaking pigeon take away food that is hers! [1-minute video]
- Tehran University's College of Engineering is utterly inaccessible to wheelchair-bound individuals. [Image]
- Drivers helping a man who seems to have car trouble are pleasantly surprised!
- Good for a chuckle: What did the janitor say when he jumped out of the closet? ... Supplies!
- Cartoon of the day, as we approach Thanksgiving: "No giblets, but there's an organ-donor card." [Image]
The bulletin board outside my UCSB office, updated today with cover images of my existing and forthcoming books (3) Bulletin board outside my UCSB office, updated today with cover images of my published and forthcoming books.
(4) Concealed Online: For-profit pro-gun entity that was among the biggest spenders on Facebook political ads during the 2018 US midterm elections.
(5) Black Friday: A day when Americans trample others to get to on-sale items, exactly one day after giving thanks for all the things they have.
(6) Translated into English from a church posting in France: If you want to talk to God, enter, choose a quiet place, and talk to Him. If you want to see Him, send him a text message while driving.
(7) Quote of the day: "The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt, writing shortly before her 1962 passing
(8) Newsletter headline, referring to NYT story that Harvard, Stanford, and other universities want to address tech's ethical dark side: Universities Look to Bring "Medicine-Like Morality to Computer Science." Me: Oh no!

2018/11/18 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's presidency is in many ways similar to Nixon's, with the crookedness vastly amplified MAGA wall-building block set Trump toilet-cleaning brush (1) Trump-related designs: [Left] Trump's presidency is in many ways similar to Nixon's, with the crookedness vastly amplified. [Center] MAGA wall-building block set. [Right] Trump toilet-cleaning brush.
(2) And now, some humor from the man-child in the White House: "The White House is running very smoothly and the results for our Nation are obviously very good. We are the envy of the world. But anytime I even think about making changes, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA goes crazy, always seeking to make us look as bad as possible! Very dishonest!" ~ DJT tweet
(3) Look who's giving lessons on decorum: Trump has said that he'll walk out of press conferences if reporters are rude to him. Perhaps reporters should reciprocate the next time he says "What a stupid question"!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Northern California fire death toll now at 71, with ~1000 missing. The area has world's worst air quality.
- Devastating fire in SoCal's Malibu area stopped moving westward only when it reached the Pacific Ocean.
- Horse survived California wildfire by taking shelter in a pool: It was shivering uncontrollably when rescued.
- More than 200 mass graves found in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by ISIS, according to a UN report.
- Saudi Arabia beheads Indonesian maid for killing her boss as he was raping her.
- Someone who voted at the last minute is smiling: Democrat wins Kentucky House race by a single vote!
(5) The Metric System redefined: On Friday, October 16, 2018, representatives from 60 different countries voted unanimously to rid the Metric System of its dependence on physical objects, such as the platinum-iridium cylinder (stored under lock and key in France) that defined the kilogram. Everything is now defined in terms of fundamental constants of nature, making the units more accurate and easily reproducible, even on Mars.
(6) "Leave No Trace": In this 2018 movie, screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater as part of the "Script to Screen" series on Saturday 11/17, a man (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, offering a superb performance) have lived off the grid, in a forest near Portland, Oregon, for years. The father is a PTSD-suffering veteran who wants to be on his own. The daughter accompanies him, despite yearning for a social life and a phone! Their idyllic life is shattered, when both are placed into social services and taken to live on a farm. After clashing with their new surroundings, the pair set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. The early part of the film is based on the true story of a man and a young girl brought in from their forest dwelling. Peter Rock turned it into the novel My Abandonment, on which the movie is based. The film screening was followed by a moderated discussion with Director/Co-Writer Debra Granik. [Images]
(7) UCSB Faculty Artist Recital: World-renowned flutist and Music Department Professor Jill Felber performed at Karl Geiringer Hall, accompanied by the Nexus String Quartet [Program/bios/photos]. An enjoyable performance in an intimate setting; one of the perks of working at a major university with wonderful artists and arts departments. A variation from the first piece on the program, a composition for flute and string quartet by composer/pianist Amy Marcy Cheney Beach [1867-1944], is captured in this 1-minute video. A short sample from Mozart's String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465, "Dissonance," performed by the Nexus String Quartet appears in this 2-minute video.

2018/11/17 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Moshfegh, Ottessa, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Julia Whelan, Penguin Audio, 2018. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for Ottessa Moshfegh's 'My Year of Rest and Relaxation' This novel is set in the year 2000, when an anti-social twenty-something woman, fired from her job and with an inheritance to sustain her, decides to cut off from the world and lead a drug-addled existence pent-up in her apartment. Moshfegh has received a great deal of attention for this novel and other works.
The novel isn't just about the protagonist's year of rest and relaxation, but has flashbacks to other parts of her life. Moshfegh's story comes across as the whinings of an entitled young woman. After a few chapters, one gets tired of the repeated recitation of the lists of pills the young woman took, and descriptions of her disjointed states after she woke up from long sleeps. One can't help but wonder how the protagonist could remember all those details, when her mind was fogged up.
On the positive side, the writing is extremely good. Moshfegh seems to have a natural flair for the English language, and I hope to someday read other works from her that are a bit more consequential.
(2) This 1-minute audio clip is said to be the oldest recording of Iranian diva Googoosh, showcasing her talent at a very young age and demonstrating why she is still going strong at age 68.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Investigation report: The Florida International University bridge that collapsed in March had design errors.
- Seven women file a $70 million lawsuit against Dartmouth for shielding sexual predators.
- First cartoon of the day: "It's going to be a long couple of years." [Image]
- Second cartoon of the day: "Now, that's a representative parliament!" [Image]
- Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2018: "Toxic" [Here is the shortlist]
- Flash-mob: Heart-warming performance at Isfahan's city center, Iran, despite not being very refined.
- Daf-playing Zoroastrians celebrate the Pomegranate Festival in Mobarakeh Village, Taft County, Yazd, Iran.
- Jorja Smith's moving performance of "Don't Watch Me Cry" on Stephen Colbert's late-night show.
(4) IBM's US supercomputers take the top 2 spots on the latest list of the world's top-500 supercomputers. Five of the top-10 entries are from the US, but China extends its presence on the list. In way of comparison, last November's list included two Chinese supercomputers at the top, followed by Swiss and Japanese machines, with the United States' first appearance being at the 5th spot.
(5) Final thought for the day: "Small, scared people hate, self-hating people hate, bullied and betrayed people hate, as though hate will make them large and safe and strong." ~ Nancy Gibbs, writing in Time magazine, issue of November 12, 2018, carrying the cover feature "Beyond Hate" [Cover image]

2018/11/16 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Jean-Leon Gerome's famous 1877 painting 'The Carpet Merchants' Jean-Leon Gerome's painting, 'The Whirling Dervishes' Jean-Leon Gerome's painting, 'The Blue Mosque' (1) Three magical paintings by Jean-Leon Gerome (cropped into square format): [Left] A Persian Carpet being admired in Cairo: "The Carpet Merchants" [Center] "The Whirling Dervishes" [Right] "The Blue Mosque"
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- November 16: Happy International Day for Tolerance! [Logo]
- California fires: More than 60 are dead and ~600 are still missing. Utilities scrutinized for fire cause.
- MBS ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, CIA has concluded.
- Facebook hired a firm to attack Soros and other critics: Zuckerberg and Sandberg claim they didn't know.
- Orange County becomes Blue County: Republicans lose a CA enclave won over for the party by Reaganites.
- Iran says it will step up to fill the void created by US assets based in Italy being sent to fight ISIS.
- Japan follows Trump's appointments strategy: Its cybersecurity minister has never used a computer!
- One year after the 7.5 quake in northwestern Iran, people are still living in precarious conditions. [Cartoon]
Impossible object, made of Lego blocks (3) On social paradoxes: Paradoxes and impossibility results in mathematics have counterparts in social sciences. The paradox of freedom, formulated by Karl Popper in 1945, goes like this: "Freedom, in the sense of absence of any constraining control, must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek." The paradox of tolerance is similar: "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance." The restraint that goes with freedom is being put to the test as I write this note. Social media are banning certain users for abusive behavior, despite US Internet Legislation Section 230 categorizing such media as "platforms," which are immune from liability for the content they publish.
(4) This week's Santa Barbara Independent has a fascinating cover story about our city's history. Photos show: The 700 block of State Street, ca. 1883; SB Mission, 1880s: Navigational error causing 7 US Navy destroyers running aground, Sept. 8, 1923; Hotel Californian, after the earthquake of June 29, 1925.
(5) Anti-Semitism: Drunk man shouts "Heil Hitler, Heil Trump" during a performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" in Baltimore. He must be a leftist or undocumented immigrant, set to tarnish Trump and his administration!
(6) Concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight: The musical program by the Estonian Chamber Choir, viewed by some as the finest in the world, and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was a component of Estonia 100, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Estonia's independence from the Russian Empire. [Promotional video for the Choir]

2018/11/15 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Cover image of 'Catching Fire: Hunger Games, Book 2'
(1) Book review: Collins, Susanne, Catching Fire: Hunger Games, Book 2, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Carolyn McCormick, Scholastic Audio, 2009.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is the second volume in the "Hunger Games" trilogy. Having seen the first two parts of the series as 2012 movies, I decided to also check out the second part in book form, which I liked much better. The third volume in the series was released as a 2-part movie in 2014 and 2015.
Victors of the 74th Hunger Games, Catniss Everdeen (played in the movie version by Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark, are sent on a Victors Tour to quell uprisings in the districts, attributed to Everdeen's actions (not killing Mellark, as required by the Games' single-victor rule), which were widely viewed as defiance against the Capitol and President Snow. Soon thereafter, word arrives that the victors' lifetime exemption from further participation in the gladiator-like fighting competition has been revoked and that the Games' 75th edition will in fact feature only previous victors, a kind of Celebrity Hunger Games, if you will.
Action-packed stories generally do not translate well to the screen. Some elements of the action scenes are enhanced by visuals, but these visuals are often overdone and come across as even less realistic than the books' versions. There is something to be said about a reader reconstructing and visualizing a scene and the action in it from the author's detailed description, and Collins does a great job of putting the reader in the middle of the action.
As a "young adult" title, the story of Catching Fire isn't subtle or sophisticated. There are a few surprises along the way, but events are, by and large, rather predictable. It was an enjoyable summer read for me, but I will likely not pursue the third book in the series, or its 2-part film version.
(2) Iranians from all walks of life sing "Morgh-e Sahar," an old favorite, while flashing messages of love to the self-exiled popular singer Mohammad-Reza Shajarian.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California wildfires have claimed 50 lives as of 11/14: Rampant looting has been reported in affected areas.
- Decision time for Democrats who want to enter the 2020 presidential race is fast approaching!
- Iranian folk music: Wonderful multi-lingual song, likely from southeastern Iran.
- What would you do if the glass surface of a pedestrian bridge cracked under your feet as you crossed?
(4) A Twitter account, set up by fans of Prince Babak Qajar, tweets (in Persian) about his right to form a government should monarchy return to Iran, because the "fake prince" (that is, Reza Pahlavi) comes from a dynasty which assumed power illegitimately. I am just reporting this discovery of mine, without suggesting that the claim is anything but an attempt at humor/entertainment. [Tweet images]
(5) Machine learning should move into the computer science undergraduate curricula: Traditionally, the focus of CS education has been precision and full control of algorithms (e.g., via a small number of well-understood parameters). AI has necessitated a change in this attitude. Machine learning brings with it a much larger number of poorly-understood parameters to our computational processes, thereby making logical proofs of correctness all but impossible. Instead of correctness proof, computer scientists must learn to deal with statistical demonstration of effectiveness.

2018/11/14 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 1 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 2 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 3 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 4 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 6 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 5 (1) Colorful flowers, greenery, and a waterfall at the Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran.
(2) Sharing my brief technical bio in Persian, prepared for a special commemorative album being compiled by the Alumni Association to honor the graduates of 50 years ago at College of Engineering, University of Tehran (pish-kesvataan-e daaneshkadeh-ye Fanni). [Includes 5-decades-old and recent photos]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NYer cartoon: "Say what you will about 2018, I haven't been kept awake at night by the same fear twice."
- Tech and AI can help with early detection of fires and predtiction of the way they might spread.
- Quote: "Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty." ~ Jospeh Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister
- One of the most remarkable magic acts I have ever seen: I know how he did it, but it still amazes me.
- I miss Trump's daily updates on the status of the caravan of migrants!
- Today's World Music Series noon concert at UCSB featured UCSB's Gamelan Ensemble. [Photo] [Video]
(4) The snipping tool (Microsoft Windows tip): Sometimes, the easiest way to copy an image is from its displayed form on the screen. Windows has a "PrtSc" (print screen) command that captures the entire screen image, even if it extends over multiple monitors, which you can later copy into Paint or other apps. I have been doing this for ages, which required extra steps to crop the large image to get the part that I needed. A couple of days ago, I discovered the snipping tool (on Windows 10, you can type "snipping tool" into the Windows search box to locate the tool), which allows you to select particular screen areas to copy, saving much work.
(5) Misleading insurance commercials: Nearly all insurance commercials contain false or misleading claims, but three recent ones on TV ticked me off, because they take the deception to another level. One company claims that they will replace a totaled car, rather than pay the depreciated price (current value) of the car. But it does